Tuesday, February 4, 2020

92nd Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

Welcome to the 5th Annual Academy Awards Predictions column here at Enuffa.com, where my colleague Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I compete for bragging rights, prognosticating the Oscars!

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2019 is in the history books and we've got quite the slate of films this year - films about war, auto racing, 60s Hollywood, mentally disturbed comic book villains, 19th century women, gangsters, strained marriages, imaginary Nazi friends, and whatever the hell Parasite is about.  I've seen six of the Best Pic nominees and hope to catch the last three before Sunday.

This turned out to be a very strong year in film; several good popcorn movies (Avengers: Endgame, The Rise of Skywalker), some really innovative genre pictures (Us, 1917, Joker), multiple offerings from under the expanding Netflix umbrella (The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Two Popes), and yet another neo-classic from Quentin Tarantino, featuring a pair of actors being referred to as "The last two true movie stars."  We'll eventually write a piece about the films of the 2010s, and I'd likely include multiple entries from 2019 on my Best Of list.

Once again the Oscars have no host this year; I think most people enjoyed the streamlined format to keep the running time down and the show simpler.  I generally like the idea of a host, but aside from the opening monologue/song I suppose there isn't much need for one.  Regardless, this should be a fun evening.  But enough blathering, let's pick some winners (As of now Mike is trouncing me in the predictions)....

Best Picture

Ford vs. Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit 
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Justin:  This category is between two frontrunners, each of which won a Best Picture Golden Globe.  1917 is an incredible, immersive war film done in one continuous shot (or at least edited to look like it), while Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a love letter to the late 60s set against the backdrop of the Sharon Tate murders.  I loved both of these films.  My favorite of the year was OUATIH and I'm a little sad Tarantino's going to come so close to winning the big one only to fall short again.  But it seems clear the Academy is going all-in on 1917, which Sam Mendes based on World War I stories his grandfather used to tell him.  I'm fine with that winning, as it's my second choice (Poetically Mendes's debut feature won this award 20 years ago).  I'm also happy Joker got a nod.  What a surreal film; a Scorsese-esque character study about a comic book character.  It's kind of mindboggling this film got made and even moreso that it made a fortune.

Prediction: 1917

Mike: I've managed to see 7 of the 9 nominees this year and I'm sure I've seen the eventual winner. Parasite is a master class in filmmaking and storytelling. The theme behind the story and how it was delivered was just incredible. However, no foreign film has ever taken home the top prize and I'm not so sure that will change, even for the best reviewed movie of the year. Joker was great and JoJo Rabbit was such a great movie. Funny and absurd but then takes a turn into the serious. It reminded me a lot of Life Is Beautiful. But my favorite film this year was easily 1917. It was really hard to get past how great the storytelling was, how it was shot, and the suspense it captured.

Prediction: 1917

Best Director

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
Todd Phillips – Joker
Sam Mendes – 1917
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Justin: Like the Best Pic category, this is a two-horse race.  Quentin Tarantino vs. Sam Mendes.  Again I'll be sad to see Tarantino, one of my all-time favorite directors, fall just short of this award, but the smart money is on Mendes.  Todd Phillips's work on Joker was a little too Scorsese for him to deserve this, while Scorsese's work on The Irishman was a little too.....well, 90s Scorsese.  Bong Joon-ho could be a spoiler but I'm sticking with Sam.

Prediction: Sam Mendes

Mike: I agree with you that this is a two-horse race however Tarantino isn't a part of it. For me, it's between Mendes and Bong Joon Ho for Parasite. 1917 is a film that ranks up there with Saving Private Ryan (the most famous of all the Academy's sins) and if he was awarded the Oscar, it's deserved. However, Parasite is a masterpiece and its delivery is crazy good. This was a film I actually had to digest after it was over. Also, considering how the Director's branch of the Academy is primarily made up of directors from other countries, I think Parasite's theme is actually going to translate more in this category than any others.

Prediction: Bong Joon Ho

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory as Salvador Mallo
Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Rick Dalton
Adam Driver – Marriage Story as Charlie Barber
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker as Arthur Fleck / Joker
Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Justin: This category is an open-and-shut case.  I loved Adam Driver in Marriage Story (he's surely a future Oscar winner), I loved Leo in OUATIH (I'd say this was his best or second-best performance behind Wolf of Wall Street), but Joaquin Phoenix OWNS this award.  He's long overdue to win, an unapologetic actor who's never afraid of going to really uncomfortable places, and his performance in Joker was an absolute career highlight.  Joaquin has to take this, becoming the second actor to win an Oscar playing The Joker.

Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix

Mike: Let's not waste anyone's time here.

Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo – Harriet as Harriet Tubman
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story as Nicole Barber
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women as Josephine "Jo" March
Charlize Theron – Bombshell as Megyn Kelly
Renée Zellweger – Judy as Judy Garland

Justin: I've only seen two of these so far - ScarJo and Saoirse.  I loved both performances, particularly Saoirse as Jo in Little Women.  She's a firebrand whenever she's onscreen and I can't take my eyes off her.  That said, I think Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland is a lock for this award.  She's been winning every statuette she's been nominated for.

Prediction: Renee Zellweger

Mike: I've only seen one of the performances in this category, ScarJo's, and it was really good. However, Zellweger seems to be staking a claim on this category and it's tough to argue against it.

Prediction: Renee Zellweger

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood as Fred Rogers
Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes as Pope Benedict XVI
Al Pacino – The Irishman as Jimmy Hoffa
Joe Pesci – The Irishman as Russell Bufalino
Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Cliff Booth

Justin: This is another sure thing.  Brad Pitt delivered perhaps his best-ever performance in OUATIH, as Leo's laid-back, rugged stuntman Cliff Booth.  Brad more or less steals the show here, as a no-bullshit character you're not always sure you can trust but you can't help but love.  This will be very well-deserved.

Prediction: Brad

Mike: As much as I disliked Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, it's hard to deny how great Brad's performance was. Every actor in this category already has an acting Oscar except for Brad so it's time for that to change. I love Brad Pitt. I love listening to Brad Pitt. An Oscar acceptance speech is something I'm going to really enjoy.

Prediction: Brad Pitt

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern – Marriage Story as Nora Fanshaw
Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit as Rosie Betzler
Kathy Bates - Richard Jewel as Barbara "Bobi" Jewell
Florence Pugh – Little Women as Amy March
Margot Robbie - Bombshell as Kayla Pospisil

Justin: This is a competitive category.  ScarJo joined the double-nominee club for Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit, Kathy Bates racked up another acclaimed turn, Florence Pugh's star is quickly on the rise, and with good reason, and Margot Robbie got another nod for her work in Bombshell.  But this award belongs to Laura Dern, as Scarjo's bloodthirsty shark divorce lawyer in Marriage Story.  Dern is a presence in this film, as a character you kinda hate but kinda have to respect.

Prediction: Laura Dern

Mike: ScarJo was fantastic in JoJo Rabbit. A really in depth and emotionally challenging role that she handled with what seems like ease. Laura Dern's performance in Marriage Story was just incredible. You used the word "presence" and that's exactly the word for it. When she was onscreen you didn't want to look away. I mean, you wanted to tell her to go fuck herself whenever she was onscreen but man, she was fantastic.

Prediction: Laura Dern

Best 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 and Han Jin-won

Justin: There's some great talent in this category as well, with perennial favorite Tarantino leading the charge.  Quentin's films have always been script-driven, and the Academy frequently recognizes his uncanny ability to write memorable characters and dialogue.  Noah Baumbach brought an extremely personal touch to his Marriage Story.  I'm happy to see Rian Johnson get some recognition after two years of backlash from toxic Star Wars fans.  1917's inclusion here is a bit strange to me, given how little dialogue there is.  I'd say Tarantino is a sure bet to pick up his third screenwriting Oscar.

Prediction: Quentin Tarantino

Mike: It's between Tarantino and Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin-Won. Tarantino's screenplay abilities are legendary at this point and he's probably the best ever at creating them. If he ends up getting this award, I wouldn't be mad. However, I'm leaning more toward Ho and Jin-Won for this category after they won this category at the WGA Awards and the BAFTAs. That's a pretty decent streak of wins there.

Prediction: Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin-Won

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman – Steven Zaillian based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt
Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens
Joker – Todd Phillips and Scott Silver based on characters created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson
Little Women – Greta Gerwig based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
The Two Popes – Anthony McCarten based on his play The Pope

Justin: This award has to go to the director whose exclusion raised more than a few eyebrows.  Female directors have been criminally under-nominated, and Greta Gerwig is the latest example.  She really should be there instead of Todd Phillips, for taking a story that's been adapted numerous times to new places that reflect our 21st century sensibilities.  For now she'll have to settle for a writing award.

Prediction: Greta Gerwig

Mike: Little Women is a popular choice in this category because the source material is great and Greta has an uncanny ability to modernize it in various aspects. Her outright snub in the director category easily makes her a front runner. I loved The Two Popes immensely. Its meditations on faith, old school vs. new school of thinking, was such a delight to watch. For me, however, the Oscar is going to JoJo Rabbit. I think in this day and age where Nazis are literally taking over the streets, a movie about a ridiculous, satirical and imaginary Hitler and how easy it is to fall under spell of nationalism and hate (sound familiar anyone?) is prime Oscar bait.

Prediction:  Taika Waititi

Best Cinematography

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

Justin: Hey, I've actually seen all of these!  There's some fantastic work represented in this category, from Richardson's nostalgia to Sher's gloom and doom, to Prieto's...nostalgia to Blaschke's.....gloom and doom....  As an aside I'm very glad to see Robert Eggers' second psychological horror film represented here.  I love black & white and I love how The Lighthouse was shot in 4:3 to ratchet up the claustrophobia of two men trapped on a tiny island, slowly going insane.  But the award has to go to the legendary Roger Deakins, who shot 1917 in a way that thrusts us into the action and horror of war, and never lets us off the hook with cutaways.  We experience everything the characters do, and it's an absolutely harrowing journey.

Prediction: Roger Deakins

Mike: I wasn't too thrilled with how The Irishman was shot so I was a little surprised it got nominated. Joker was really shot well. Sher definitely fit the overall feel of the film and really helped connect it all together. I agree with you on 1917 in this category. The way Deakins shot this film really brought the suspense to the forefront, even when the characters weren't in danger, just feeling like you are right there walking behind or alongside these characters was enough to get me squirming in my seat.

Prediction: Roger Deakins

Best Original Score

Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir
Little Women – Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story – Randy Newman
1917 – Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – John Williams

Justin: I've seen all of these too.  There's loads of musical genius in this category, from John Williams' astounding 52nd nomination to Desplat's lush period-invoking work, to the two Newmans with very different styles.  But this award should absolutely go to the Icelandic cellist whose strains in Joker evoke overwhelming psychological trauma and help make this film a deeply troubling watch.  Hildur is gonna be a big star.

Prediction:  Hildur Guðnadóttir

Mike: I've never been too attached to any hopefuls in this category, historically speaking, but if Hildur doesn't win this I'm going to set my television on fire (figuratively speaking of course). Her score really brings forth the underlying pains in Joker while also embodying an element of fear, foreshadowing what is to come for this character. Her score was mesmerizing and stunning.

Prediction:  Hildur Guðnadóttir

Tie-Breaker: Best Documentary Short

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

Justin: I know nothing about any of these.  But I like the title of Learning to Skateboard, so I'll go with that.

Prediction: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)

Mike: Soooooooo.....hmmmmmm.....let's see.....I'll go with........

Prediction: St. Louis Superman

Well, there are your picks.  I feel like most of these categories scream for one particular nominee that shines above the others, so it'll be interesting to see if the Academy goes the predictable route or throws some curveballs.  Should be a very interesting show.  Enjoy the Oscars!

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