So we have come again to that time of year where everyone in the film industry gives themselves a mutual pat on the back, gets to dress up in overpriced clothing (that they probably didn’t even have to pay for), gets drunk and a few of them pick up a lovely award at the end of the evening.
Of course this year’s awards season has had its fair share of controversy due to an apparent lack of diversity in the nominations, and as much I would prefer to avoid the politics and playing any kind of blame game, I think it is fair to say that these issues lie more with the industry as a whole than just with the academy. I would argue that it is also important to maintain a sense of perspective and remember that the awards season (in particular the Oscars) is a nonsense that is never a true reflection of the previous 12 months of the film industry.
The undeniable fact is that every awards season there is a group of films that have a monopoly over all of the big award nominations. Admittedly there is usually a joker in the pack (this year quite literally) that surprises everyone and gets a few nominations, but most of the films that get nominated are ‘Oscar bait’ films that were made (either completely or partly) with the intention of winning awards – whether this be the story, the cast or just the release the date (last year’s best picture winner Green Book is a textbook example). Even if some may have started out being made without this in mind, at some point during production the words “for your consideration” entered the minds of those involved, and then there was no going back; the film was marketed carefully so to get ‘awards hype’.
In fact, I am quite sure that a vast majority of film fans everywhere would not consider the nine films nominated for best picture as the best films of the last 12 months that they have seen – I personally think Midsommar should win in most of the categories, but it doesn’t have a single nomination! Oh well, that is all part of the wonderful subjective nature of film.
Well, for what it is worth here is my rundown of what I think will win and what I think should win, and yes some of the ‘shoulds’ are not even nominated – I obviously haven’t said that In Fabric or High Life should win best picture (that would have to be in some parallel universe that I would love to go and live in), but those that I mentioned that did not even get nominated do in my opinion have a genuine right to feel aggrieved. I will also refrain from commenting on the short film categories, as I have never seen any of them.
1917, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Le Mans ’66 (Ford Vs Ferrari), Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Parasite, The Irishman
What will win: 1917
What should win: Parasite
As usual the best picture category has produced a highly predictable list that consists predominantly of films that are pure Oscar bait. While it is refreshing to see the likes of Jojo Rabbit and Le Mans ‘66 there, they do feel like they have been included to make up the numbers and have no chance of winning. The Irishman, Little Women and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood are films that were always destined to be nominated (though for admittedly very different reasons), while the incredibly overrated Joker is there due to its underserved hype making the academy feel obliged to nominate it. Meanwhile it is disappointing that blockbuster with brains Ad Astra hasn’t got a nomination; not only is it a wonderfully cerebral film but has a far more mature examination of mental health than Joker. Marriage Story (though very awards-friendly) is in my view a great film and I would certainly not begrudge it winning, but for me the astounding achievement that is 1917 is surely the clear favourite. Though 1917 is a great film, I would argue that it does have a few flaws, whereas Parasite is for me a flawless masterpiece. Though unfortunately I do not expect it to be the first ever best picture winner to be not in the English language, Parasite is for me the best film of the nominations and would be the most deserving winner.
Adam Driver – Marriage Story, Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory, Joaquin Phoenix – Joker, Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes, Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Who will win: Joaquin Phoenix
Who should win: Adam Driver
Who really should win: Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems
Not the strongest of categories, but I think we can all accept that it is pretty obvious that Joaquin Phoenix is going take home the prize. Though it is certainly a very good performance (and one of only three things about Joker that I regard as above average) in the same way that Joker served as a reminder that it is nowhere near as good as the films it is influenced by, his performance serves as a reminder of similar (but better) performances that Phoenix has produced in better films – such as The Master and You Were Never Really Here.
Of the nominees for me Adam Driver is the standout; his mesmeric performance in Marriage Story is one of fierce commitment that manages to capture so many different emotions throughout what is in my opinion an incredibly powerful and unforgettable film. I made the argument in my review of 1917 and still stand by it that if George MacKay were a bigger name he would have got a thoroughly deserved nomination for his astounding performance that is not a million miles away from Leo DiCaprio’s in The Revenant (and yes, I am fully aware that win was more for the fact that he missed out so many times before!). Likewise, I would argue Eddie Murphy is more deserving for his towering performance in Dolomite is my Name than some of the nominees. Meanwhile, though The Lighthouse has its fair share of narrative flaws, it features two absolute outstanding performances, and it is a shame Robert Pattinson hasn’t been recognised for this. However, for me one of the biggest snubs of the 2020 Oscars is Adam Sandler’s exceptional performance in the exhilarating Uncut Gems – not only should he be nominated, but he should actually win!
Charlize Theron – Bombshell, Cynthia Erivo – Harriet, Renée Zellweger – Judy, Saoirse Ronan – Little Women, Scarlet Johansson – Marriage Story
Who will win: Renée Zellweger
Who should win: Renée Zellweger
Perhaps with the exception of Cynthia Erivo, a list that that contains no surprises – though Florence Pugh should have in my view definitely got a nomination for Midsommar in a performance far superior to that of some of the nominees. I have not seen Harriet, so cannot comment on Erivo’s performance, but it is fair to say that as soon as Judy was released Zellweger has been pretty much guaranteed the Oscar, and for me she deserves it as though the film itself was fairly bland and forgettable, her performance was brilliant.
Al Pacino – The Irishman, Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes, Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Joe Pesci – The Irishman, Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Who will win: Brad Pitt
Who should win: Tom Hanks
Who really should win: Christian Bale – Le Mans ‘66
A strong category in terms of the names, but for me not in terms of performances; though there are certainly no bad performances here, I would argue that Al Pacino and Joe Pesci’s nominations are motivated purely by nostalgia. Brad Pitt’s naturally cool performance was admittedly one of the better things about Tarantino’s self-indulgent wankfest, but for me Tom Hanks effortlessly unforgettable performance in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is just, well better. In terms of snubs, as with Robert Pattinson in the leading actor category, Willem Dafoe can feel genuinely aggrieved that his madcap performance in The Lighthouse hasn’t been recognised. However, for me Christian Bale’s wonderfully eccentric and charismatic turn in Le Mans ’66 is superior to all of the nominations, and I would argue that not only should it have been recognised with a nomination, but also should be the winner!
Florence Pugh – Little Women, Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell, Laura Dern – Marriage Story, Margot Robbie – Bombshell, Scarlet Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
Who will win: Laura Dern
Who should win: Laura Dern
A very strong list consisting of five great performances (even if some of the films are not so great), but as with the leading actress category, this one seems to have been settled a long time ago; Laura Dern is fantastic in what is an essential supporting role in Marriage Story, and along with an equally great performance in Little Women, would cap of a great 12 months. I must also add that I have not seen Richard Jewell.
Bong Joon Ho – Parasite, Martin Scorsese – The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Sam Mendes – 1917, Todd Phillips – Joker
Who will win: Sam Mendes
Who should win: Sam Mendes
With the exception of Bong Joon Ho (which is very pleasing and thoroughly deserving inclusion), this is a very predictable list, and I fully expect Sam Mendes to deservingly get the award for his audacious and incredible directing in 1917. Many have made a point about Greta Gerwig not being nominated, but for me (like the film as a whole) her direction of Little Women was competent, but no more. As much as I would have liked to see her nominated over Quentin Tarantino or Todd Phillips, I would contend that just being competent is not enough to deserve an Oscar nomination anyway, and I would argue that the likes of James Gray (Ad Astra), Ari Aster (Midsommar) and James Mangold (Le Mans ’66) are more deserving than Tarantino or Phillips, and should consider themselves very unlucky not to be nominated.
Best Original Screenplay:
Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns – 1917, Rian Johnson – Knives Out, Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story, Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Bong Joon Ho, Jin Won Han – Parasite
Who will win: Quentin Tarantino
Who should win: Noah Baumbach
Hollywood loves films about Hollywood almost as much as Tarantino seems to love Tarantino, so while Tarantino’s overrated film will thankfully miss out on most awards, I fear this will be its consolation price – though I suppose that will still be better than Rian Johnson’s bland, flat and predictable screenplay for the equally overrated Knives Out winning. For me Noah Baumbach’s raw and deeply personal screenplay for Marriage Story is by far the best screenplay of the nominations. It is also a shame that the likes of Ad Astra, Le Mans ’66, Booksmart, Uncut Gems, Pain and Glory and Midsommar didn’t get nominated, as I would argue that they have vastly superior screenplays to 3 of the 5 nominations.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Taika Watiti – Jojo Rabbit, Todd Phillps, Scott Silver – Joker, Greta Gerwig – Little Women, Steven Zaillian – The Irishman, Anthony McCarten – The Two Popes
Who will win: Greta Gerwig
Who should win: Taika Watiti
Who really should win: Armando Ianucci – The Personal History of David Copperfield
A field nowhere near as strong as the original screenplay, and I suspect the Oscars will probably do its usual act of apathy by giving it to Little Women. Though Greta Gerwig did a solid job modernising the dialogue and changing the narrative structure, the overall film with its painfully neat and tidy story is still way to middle of the road to deserve an Oscar in my opinion. A much better example of modernising an old novel (and also condensing it down) has to be Armando Iannucci’s script for A Personal History of David Copperfield – though I admit that this is a bit of a pipe dream on my part, especially as I am not sure if the film has an American release date to actually qualify! Of the nominees, I regard Jojo Rabbit as by far the best offering, but I just don’t expect the academy to be quite as risqué as BAFTA.
Roger Deakins – 1917, Lawrence Sher – Joker, Robert Richardson – Once Upon a Time …in Hollywood, Rodrigo Prieto – The Irishman, Jarin Blaschke – The Lighthouse
Who will win: Roger Deakins
Who should win: Roger Deakins
Cinematography is always a very strong field, and as much as I may have my reservations about three of the films nominated, I cannot fault the cinematography for any for them (the cinematography being the second thing about Joker that I regard as above average). It is a shame that the likes of Ad Astra and Midsommar didn’t get a look in, but the inclusion of The Lighthouse is a very pleasant surprise.
However, this should just be called the ‘annual Roger Deakins award to celebrate the genius of Roger Deakins’ as he continues to consistently do an astounding job with so many films of which he is Director of Photography, and 1917 is certainly no exception.
Best Animated Feature Film:
How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost my Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4
Who will win: Toy Story 4
Who should win: I Lost my Body
If the enjoyable but forgettable Missing Link were to be replaced with Farmageddon or The Lego Movie 2, then this would be a category that is arguable just as strong (if not stronger) than the best picture category. This year there is a wonderfully rich and varied list of films that showcase the magnificent wide variety of animated films that exist these days, and proves that they can be far more than just ‘kid’s films’. I do however fear that the academy will play it safe and go for Toy Story 4, which is a good film, but certainly not the best of the series, and does not in my view reach the emotional heights of How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, the splendid Netflix Christmas film Klaus or the stunningly beautiful and haunting I Lost my Body.
Best Original Score:
Thomas Newman – 1917, Hildur Guðnadóttir – Joker, Alexandre Desplat – Little Women, Randy Newman – Marriage Story, John Williams – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Who will win: Hildur Guðnadóttir
Who should win: Hildur Guðnadóttir
A category very close to my heart, but it doesn’t seem that the Academy shares my passion, as this category generally feels like an afterthought, as the films that dominate the other categories just tend to automatically get nominated for their music irrespective of whether it is actually any good (hence why Mr bland himself, Alexandre ‘plinkity plonk’ Desplat gets so many nominations!). John Williams is the exception here, and though his score for The Rise of Skywalker is by no means his most memorable, it does feel that his nomination serves more as a tribiute to his incredible career.
While I would argue that the likes of Max Richter and Lorne Balfe’s score for Ad Astra, John Powell’s score for How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, Bobby Krlic’s score for Midsommar and Daniel Lopatin’s score for Uncut Gems all in my view deserved nominations, I cannot help but join the general consensus here regarding Hildur Guðnadóttir’s stunningly brooding and emotive cello-based score for Joker. It is for me not only the very best thing about Joker and certainly elevates many of the other very average aspects of the film, but is also refreshingly very different and unconventional compared to most other scores of similar types of films, and Guðnadóttir fully deserves every award she receives for what she has composed.
Best International Film:
Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les misérables, Pain and Glory, Parasite
Who will win: Parasite
Who should win: Parasite
Another category close to my heart, but it tends to serve as an indication of what to watch in the coming months, as very rarely have I seen many of the nominations during the runup to the actual Oscars. As good as Pain and Glory is, though Parasite may miss out elsewhere, it is surely a dead cert for this award, and deservedly so.
Best Documentary Feature:
American Factory, For Sama, Honeyland, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy
Who will win: For Sama
Who should win: For Sama
I have admittedly only seen For Sama and The Cave, both of which are powerful films, with For Sama just edging it, and For Sama is a film that should be seen by all, and deserves to win awards, if only solely to raise its profile.
Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker – Le Man’s 66, Jeff Growth – Joker, Jinmo Yang – Parasite, Thelma Schoonmaker – The Irishman, Tom Eagles – Jojo Rabbit
Who will win: Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker
Who should win: Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker
Best Costume Design:
Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson – The Irishman, Mayes C. Rubeo – Jojo Rabbit, Mark Bridges – Joker, Jacqueline Durran – Little Women, Arianne Phillips – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Who should win: Little Women
Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker – Bombshell, Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou – Joker, Jeremy Woodhead – Judy, Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole – 1917
Who should win: 1917
Best Production Design:
Bob Shaw, Regina Graves – The Irishman, Ra Vincent, Nora Sopková – Jojo Rabbit, Dennis Gassner, Lee Sandales – 1917, Barbara Ling, Nancy Haigh – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Lee Ha Jun, Cho Won Woo – Parasite
Who should win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Best Sound Editing:
Donald Sylvester – Le Mans ’66, Alan Robert Murray – Joker, Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate – 1917, Wylie Stateman – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Matthew Wood and David Acord – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Who should win: Le Mans ‘66
Best Sound Mixing:
Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano – Ad Astra, Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Steven A. Morrow – Le Mans ’66, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland – Joker, Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson – 1917, Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Who should win: 1917
Vest Visual Effects:
Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick – Avengers: Endgame, Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser and Stephane Grabli – The Irishman, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman – The Lion King, Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy – 1917, Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Who should win: Avengers: Endgame
I fully expect many to disagree with me, so those that do (and also those few that may actually agree with me!), please let me know your thoughts and predictions too.