Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’re finally here; it’s Oscars day! Tonight, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will bestow upon 24 sets of nominees the title of “Best of the Year” in their individual categories, and we’ll all be there to watch them award the wrong thing in at least two of them. So, in the spirit of awards season and especially tonight’s Oscars ceremony, let’s go through category by category, as I reveal my final predictions for the 92nd Annual Academy Awards!
Best Documentary Short
Will Win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Dark Horse: Walk Run Cha-Cha
Should Have Been Nominated: The Nightcrawlers
To be fair, I haven’t seen Learning to Skateboard or St. Louis Superman, but given that the former has been a heavy frontrunner in this category for some times, as well as the fact that it just took home the BAFTA for Best Short Film, it seems like a pretty safe bet to take home the gold.
Best Animated Short
Will Win: Hair Love
Dark Horse: Kitbull
Should Have Been Nominated: Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days
Pixar’s Kitbull and the artfully constructed Memorable would be the only two films here that could pose an upset…if this award didn’t 100% already belong to Sony Animation’s brilliant Hair Love. With mere hours to go, and the short not having missed an award for which it’s been considered so far, nothing is stopping it on the way to the finish line.
Best Live-Action Short
Will Win: Brotherhood
Dark Horse: Nefta Football Club
Should Have Been Nominated: Miller & Son
Of the short film categories, this is by far the hardest to predict this year. Short films at the Oscars generally end with messages of hope, subtle or otherwise, so a win for Saria feels extremely unlikely, given its devastatingly dark final moments. A Sister is the best of the bunch in my opinion, but it hasn’t exactly been knocking on voters’ doors, so it doesn’t seem to be a real contender either. That leaves us with Brotherhood, Nefta Football Club, and The Neighbors’ Window; all of them have a solid shot, but it seems the more political tinge of Brotherhood will likely push it forward to victory.
Best Sound Editing
Will Win: 1917
Dark Horse: Ford v Ferrari or Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Have Been Nominated: The Lighthouse
The sound awards tend to go hand in hand with these things (although there is a rare but documentable split sometimes), and Sound Editing is where 1917 seems to deserve it the most, from the crackle of the gunshots to the explosions to the quiet still of a river after being dropped down a waterfall. War movies tend to do fairly well in sound categories as well, so even though Ford v Ferrari could spoil the winnings, I’m sticking with 1917 on this one.
Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: 1917
Dark Horse: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Have Been Nominated: Rocketman
Again, no real surprises here, and I think it’s going to be 1917 for both sound awards; I do wish Ford v Ferrari could get more recognition, though. If ever that latter film were to win in one of the sound categories, it would be this one.
Best Visual Effects
Will Win: 1917
Dark Horse: The Irishman
Should Have Been Nominated: Godzilla: King of the Monsters
For quite some time, it seemed as if The Lion King had this award in the bag, and yet, as the Oscars loomed closer and closer, The Lion King seemed to be getting further away, to the point now where almost no one expects it to win this award (even as, by far, the most deserving candidate). The Oscars also don’t like to reward Avengers movies; I don’t know why – they just don’t, and Star Wars doesn’t stand a chance against less showy contenders. That leaves us with 1917 and The Irishman, both of which employ incredibly subtle visual techniques to tell their stories, and the former of which is nearly impossible to pull off given how it was shot. 1917 did win some awards recently for supporting visual effects, but it’s looking like this thing might run all the way down the trench in its technical categories.
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Bong Joon Ho & Han Jin Won, Parasite
Dark Horse: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Have Been Nominated: Lulu Wang, The Farewell
This is arguably the toughest award of the night to call even mere hours before the ceremony airs. On the one hand, the Academy loves them some Quentin Tarantino, and as he’s not a frontrunner to win for Best Director or Picture, they could see this as giving him something close enough to that so they don’t have to feel bad about that fact. Tarantino was not eligible for the WGA, as he is not a member, so he was never going to win that award, but even in his absence, the win for Parasite at that ceremony came as a bit of a surprise, and with Parasite’s newly-acquired BAFTA win in a show wherein Tarantino was not only eligible, but one of the five nominees, it’s put Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood in some serious danger of losing. In Parasite’s case, this could also be seen as a consolation for Bong Joon Ho not winning Best Director and the film not winning Best Picture as well. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Dark Horse: Steven Zaillian, The Irishman
Should Have Been Nominated: N/A
Anyone who thinks the dual timelines in Greta Gerwig’s masterful adaptation of Little Women are confusing should probably see one or two other movies like Memento or The Godfather Part II that deal with split timelines, and then try to defend that argument. Still, regardless of whatever cowardice those anonymous Oscar ballots reveal, Little Women was considered the frontrunner for this award for quite some time; that is, until Jojo Rabbit went ahead and started winning everything, including the WGA and the comedy BAFTA, stealing both out from under Little Women’s nose. It seems to momentum has shifted in this category over the past couple of weeks, and where that momentum goes, I’m following (well, at least for this category), so I think Waititi’s adaptation of Jojo Rabbit takes the gold here.
Best Original Song
Will Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman
Dark Horse: “Stand Up,” Harriet
Should Have Been Nominated: “Glasgow (No Place Like Home),” Wild Rose
To tell the truth, this is a pretty weak year for Original Song nominees, so any of these other entries winning wouldn’t surprise my any more than Parasite winning Original Screenplay would, but it does sort of seem like Elton John has this in the bag for his end-credits song from Rocketman. If “Glasgow” had been nominated as it should have, though, we may actually be talking about a genuine competition right now. As it is, the only other thing I can see maybe taking this is “Into the Unknown,” but since the Academy isn’t fond enough of Frozen II to even give it a Best Animated Feature nod, I doubt many of its voting members would have still voted for the songs in it.
Best Original Score
Will Win: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker
Dark Horse: Thomas Newman, 1917
Should Have Been Nominated: Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Endgame) or Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders (Ford v Ferrari) or Michael Abels (Us)
Hildur Guðnadóttir will likely win her first Oscar on her first nomination for Joker here, and it’s hardly an unfair prize. Apart from Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, the production elements of Joker are its strongest draws, the score being the pinnacle of those draws, and the main reason for why the movie might seem deeper initially than it really is; with the added benefits of having recently also scored the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, one of the highest rated in television history and a show that many in the film industry absolutely love, as well as being a fresh new face, Guðnadóttir is sure to win this category tonight, even if the long-overdue Thomas Newman (who could pull an upset, but is highly unlikely to) does have what I believe is an overall better-balanced score for 1917.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Will Win: Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, & Vivian Baker, Bombshell
Dark Horse: Naomie Donne, Tristan Versluis, & Rebecca Cole, 1917
Should Have Been Nominated: Dolemite is My Name or Rocketman
Bombshell is walking away with this award, no questions asked. Although 1917 and Joker make strong cases for second and third place, and would probably both be vying for the win in Bombshell’s absence, the Academy loves transformative makeup work (Christian Bale in Vice, Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, Charlize Theron in Monster) more than any other kind (especially in transforming actors into real-life figures), and as soon as Bombshell’s teaser trailer hit the web, and we all saw Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelley, the race was all but over. Sure, Bombshell was just an okay movie overall, but the makeup artistry is just too undeniable for it not to win here.
Will Win: Jacqueline Durran, Little Women
Dark Horse: Arianne Phillips, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Have Been Nominated: Ruth E. Carter (Dolemite is My Name) or Julian Day (Rocketman)
It is absurd that neither the colorful blaxploitation-inspired looks of Dolemite nor the over-the-top showman outfits of Rocketman were nominated in this category; the costumes were an essential part of what made both of those films so endlessly watchable (as well as their leading performances). Nevertheless, of the nominees present, I submit that Jaqueline Durran’s work on Little Women should and will take home the award in this category. Costuming is a period piece goldmine at the Oscars, and while the 60’s/70’s aesthetics of One Upon a Time…in Hollywood’s costumes could spell an upset here, I have a feeling the Academy could see this as a consolation for not giving the film the Adapted Screenplay Oscar it deserves.
Best Production Design
Will Win: Barbara Ling & Nancy Haigh, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Dark Horse: Lee Ha Jun, Parasite
Should Have Been Nominated: Mark Friedberg (Joker) or Antxón Gómez (Pain and Glory)
War movies tend to do very well in this category, so don’t be surprised if 1917’s Dennis Gassner takes home this award, especially given that the film being done in one shot meant he had to construct and design sets that fit the actors’ timing and blocking down to the second; he had to know how they were going to move, where they were going to move, how long it would take for them to get from point A to point B, and had to make the sets and locations all wide enough to fit Roger Deakins’ camera without making them so wide that they verged on unbelievability. Still, despite all the skill it would take to come up with sets like that, I’m going with Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh’s stunning recreation of 1969 Los Angeles in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood for the win here. Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood, and driving down Hollywood boulevard when this film was shooting was supposedly like driving around in the actual 1960’s L.A., down to the most minute details of every square inch coming from that era. Parasite could see a dark horse win, considering every part of both homes in that film was built entirely from scratch, but this could also be seen as a consolation for Tarantino’s film, should he lose Original Screenplay, and have only the Brad Pitt win pretty much in the bag.
Best Film Editing
Will Win: Andrew Buckland & Michael McCusker, Ford v Ferrari
Dark Horse: Yang Jinmo, Parasite
Should Have Been Nominated: Fred Raskin, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Film Editing has been a surprisingly tough race to call this year, with longtime Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker taking a 3-and-a-half hour mob epic in The Irishman and making that runtime feel as smooth and natural as it could’ve possibly been made to feel, and Ford v Ferrari’s quick cuts juicing its racing sequences with sky-high adrenaline and endless excitement. However, Parasite did walk away with the ACE Eddie Award (basically the Oscars but only for Editing) for Best Dramatic Feature Editing, while Jojo Rabbit received the comedic equivalent. The latter doesn’t have a shot against Parasite at the Oscars since they now appear in the same category and Parasite has the stronger bid, but Ford v Ferrari might, especially given that the Academy tends to reward films that really show their work, and a common saying has been that they always give this award to the film with “the most editing, rather than the best editing.” That’s certainly the case with Ford v Ferrari this year, but it’s hardly an unfair case; the editing, sound, and cinematography are what primarily make that film work as well as it does, so this, too, could be seen as a consolation for the film not having a real shot at almost anything else.
Will Win: Roger Deakins, 1917
Dark Horse: Robert Richardson, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Have Been Nominated: Phedon Papamichael (Ford v Ferrari) or Claire Mathon (Portrait of a Lady on Fire)
None of these nominees come anywhere close to touching Roger Deakins in this category. The Academy loves one-shot films (they gave Birdman Best Picture in 2015 largely because of that), and while the application of that style to a war movie was bound to happen at some point or another, the fact that Roger Deakins (one of the world’s greatest living cinematographers) shot it pretty much guaranteed it would be up for an Oscar in this category. It’ll be nice to see the now 15-time nominee walk away with his second Oscar after winning his first for Blade Runner 2049, although if Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s marketing team had launched any FYC campaigns, he could’ve been under threat from them possibly getting a nomination as well. As it stands, though, this is probably the second-most locked up award of the night.
Best Documentary Feature
Will Win: American Factory
Dark Horse: For Sama
Should Have Been Nominated: Apollo 11
To be quite honest, as of this writing, I have not yet seen For Sama, but given its BAFTA win most recently over the heavy favorite, American Factory, it seems like it could steal the win from the Obama-backed Netflix doc. However, I just don’t see that happening. The latter of the two being on Netflix has helped its accessibility greatly, and given that For Sama doesn’t seem to have as large a profile with non-documentary branch Academy members, as well as Barack and Michelle Obama’s names being attached as executive producers on American Factory, it’s far more likely that that film scores the gold.
Best International Feature Film
Will Win: Parasite
Dark Horse: None
Should Have Been Nominated/Submitted: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)
There is no possible way this doesn’t go to Parasite. There are no dark horses, no other films that could possibly challenged it (maybe Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but even that would’ve been unlikely), and nothing else that comes anywhere close to its quality. It is the only one of these films to also score a Best Picture nomination, and is widely considered the second-place favorite to win that category behind 1917. It won the SAG ensemble award, which means actors love it, and given that SAG members make up most of the acting branch of the Academy (which is the largest branch of all of them) and the whole Academy votes on the winners, none of the other films stand a chance against it; hell, the other nominations don’t even feel fair to those films at this point. Signed, sealed, delivered, take it to the bank, drop $2000, $20,000 on this bet; Parasite is winning Best International Feature, guaranteed.
Best Animated Feature
Will Win: Klaus
Dark Horse: Toy Story 4
Should Have Been Nominated: No Change
The Academy are big fans of Pixar, so it’s entirely possible that Toy Story 4 takes home the gold here, and I will have no qualms about it winning, especially since it is the only animated film to crack my Top 10 Best Movies of 2019; however, the lack of precursor awards, as well as the fact that the Academy already gave this award to its immediate predecessor (which also scored a Best Picture nomination in 2011), don’t exactly spell success for it at this ceremony. Plus, given Frozen II’s noticeable absence from the nominees, it’s possible they might be a little burnt out on Disney at the moment. Thinking of Toy Story 4 as a dark horse in the animation race is strange, but alas, that’s what it has become. Missing Link winning the Golden Globe was a fluke, so don’t expect that to push all the way through to the top here, and while The Hidden World is certainly a good film, it’s the weakest of the three and unlikely to win, especially after the best film in the trilogy (the first one) competed against Toy Story 3 and lost; maybe the Oscars see this as a reward for the whole trilogy, but I doubt it happens. That leaves us with I Lost My Body and Klaus, both from Netflix. The former seemed to have some momentum early on, but has since seemed to drop off the map, with Klaus snagging up both the Annie and BAFTA awards for Feature animation, giving it a surge of potential right at the last second. A win for either is good for Netflix (and, I think, for animation as a film medium), but it seems like Klaus has risen through the ranks to become the unexpected favorite, so that’s why I’m going with to win this category.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Dark Horse: Florence Pugh, Little Women
Should Have Been Nominated: Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers) and Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell)
All of the acting races seem pretty much locked into place at this point, but there’s still the tiniest bit of room for an upset in some of them. Florence Pugh in Little Women is my dark horse pick for this category, especially given the year she had in 2019, as well as the fact that Johansson’s dual nominations could split the votes for her in this and the Best Actress category, but without The Farewell favorite Zhao Shuzhen in the mix, there’s no way this award doesn’t go to Laura Dern for her performance in Marriage Story as fellow category nominee Scarlett Johansson’s divorce lawyer. Dern is feisty, confident, and ruthless in that film, and apart from Adam Driver’s Charlie, the best thing in it. She’s also long overdue for the award, and since the Oscars love to give what I call “legacy awards” to performers who deserved one long ago but somehow haven’t won yet, it’s a safe bet that they give it to her here.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Dark Horse: Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Should Have Been Nominated: Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse) or Song Kang Ho (Parasite)
If Willem Dafoe had been nominated for his powerhouse performance in The Lighthouse, Brad Pitt might have something to worry about, but as it stands, the veteran actor is poised to take home his first-ever Oscar as well, which is also long overdue. No one is really talking about the first two nominees in this category (even though this is Tom Hanks’ first nomination since Cast Away), especially as this is the former film’s only nomination in any category, and The Irishman’s dual supporting nominations are likely to split those votes down the middle, although Joe Pesci’s quiet presence could prove a dark horse in this race if somehow the Academy just…decides they hate Brad Pitt now, or something. As that is unlikely to occur, though, it’s Brad Pitt’s award to lose, and we’re all just watching him walk to the stage at this point.
Will Win: Renée Zellweger, Judy
Dark Horse: Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Should Have Been Nominated: Awkwafina (The Farewell) and/or Lupita Nyong’o (Us)
Look, I thought Renée Zellweger’s performance in Judy was fine, and she embodies Garland admirably well, but the fact that none of the other nominees in this category seem to have a shot is disheartening on the whole, especially since neither Lupita Nyong’o nor Awkwafina were nominated, both of whom gave performances that could have made this race far more exciting than it currently is. Erivo is good in Harriet as well, but the film’s ultimate mediocrity means her performance doesn’t ultimately carry much weight beyond her being a historic figure in that figure’s first-ever major feature biopic (the same somewhat applies to Charlize Theron). That leaves us with Saoirse Ronan, who will probably be looked at as the Meryl Streep of her generation some years from now (ironic, considering Streep plays Aunt March in Little Women, for which Ronan is nominated), and Scarlett Johansson, whose performance in Marriage Story might well be the best she’s ever done. She, out of all of these nominees, deserves to win, but the fact is that Zellweger simply doesn’t have much competition in this category. The Oscars love transformative roles, and while Judy is ultimately pretty forgettable, Judy Garland was a Hollywood icon, and the Academy could see this as honoring both her and Zellweger’s performance, especially after how horribly MGM treated the real-life Garland. Lupita Nyong’o should be winning this award, though, hands down, and her lack of a nomination after her SAG nod is borderline unforgivable.
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Dark Horse: Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Should Have Been Nominated: Taron Egerton (Rocketman) or Robert De Niro (The Irishman)
What happened to Robert De Niro? As The Irishman was ramping up to release, the Scorsese vet seemed like a shoe-in for a nomination here, but when the precursor awards began to leave him off their ballots in favor of Antonio Banderas and Christian Bale even after the film was widely released on Netflix, he totally dropped off the map. That’s a real shame, as his lead performance in The Irishman really is quite good, and very worthy of being recognized here. In fact, there were about 15 legitimate candidates vying for these five spots, one which was Adam Sandler pulling off career-best work in Uncut Gems, a movie which received no nominations from the Academy despite Sandler and the Safdie Brothers both winning their Independent Spirit Awards last night for Best Actor and Director. Out of the five nominees present here, though, Joaquin Phoenix has the strongest bid for the win, being a four-time nominee without having won thus far. Adam Driver stands as some legitimate competition for his career-best work (so far) in Marriage Story, but Phoenix’s performance is the showier of the two, and as Joker’s strongest element apart from its production qualities, his would hardly be an unfair win.
Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917
Dark Horse: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
Should Have Been Nominated: Greta Gerwig, Little Women
We can gripe over Todd Phillips getting in over Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach all day, but the fact is none of those three have a chance at winning this category over the two primary favorites, Sam Mendes and Bon Joon Ho. Either would be a well-deserved win, but with Mendes picking up the DGA, Golden Globe, and BAFTA, as well as his film winning the PGA and latter two of those awards for Picture, he gets my pick for the win. Best Director and Picture have split a few times in the past decade, so it’s very possible that Bong Joon Ho takes the award for his brilliant work on Parasite (especially if the Academy sees this as giving Parasite the closest it can get to Best Picture), but given the Academy’s more tradition-skewed voting body, Mendes seems like the more likely candidate.
Will Win: 1917
Dark Horse: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood or Jojo Rabbit
Should Have Been Nominated: The Farewell
Best Picture hasn’t had quite this strong of a two-horse race since 2016 when La La Land and Moonlight were neck and neck for the big prize (and then both won, one right after the other, in the most memorable moment in the award’s history, with Moonlight ultimately taking it home after La La Land’s name was revealed to be a mistaken announcement). Both 1917 and Parasite could walk away with this award, but 1917 has the favor of the PGA, which is the only other awards ceremony that uses the preferential ballot, the same voting method the Academy employs. It also follows the more traditional model of movies that maybe not everyone in the Academy loves, but a good amount of them like, which means on a preferential balloting system, it has a very high chance of winning the gold, especially after Green Book’s undeserved win last year and a few of the anonymous ballots that have been reported on over the last few days have shown that there are still many in the Academy who don’t want any foreign or streaming films to win simply because they’re foreign or streaming films. Those people may be very stupid, but they’re still Academy members, and many of those members remain older white men, even with a more diversified Academy. The actors branch is mostly run by SAG members, though, who gave Parasite their Best Ensemble award, that body’s equivalent of Best Picture, and considering they are the largest branch of the Academy, that puts a serious dent in any guarantees 1917 may have had before. I don’t think the Academy is quite diversified enough or ready enough on the whole to move away from the more traditional model of film that one-shot war epic 1917 presents, but it sure would be a historic night if Parasite managed to actually pull off a win here.
And those are my predictions for the 92nd Annual Academy Awards! What are your picks to win tonight? Do you think Parasite will become to first foreign language film to win the top prize? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading, and have fun watching the Oscars tonight at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern on ABC!
- The Friendly Film Fan
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.