Oscars 2020: Predicting the winners

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R Film Critic
Posted 2/7/20

Before the Academy Awards are handed out this Sunday evening, here is my annual primer of what/who will and should win each of the six main categories, plus what actor or film was robbed of their …

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Oscars 2020: Predicting the winners

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Laura Dern co-stars in 'Marriage Story.'
Laura Dern co-stars in 'Marriage Story.'
Photo courtesy of Netflix Entert
Posted

Before the Academy Awards are handed out this Sunday evening, here is my annual primer of what/who will and should win each of the six main categories, plus what actor or film was robbed of their rightful Oscar nomination.

Best Picture

Nominees: “Ford v Ferrari”; “The Irishman”; “Jojo Rabbit”; “Joker”; “Little Women”; “Marriage Story”; “1917”; “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”; “Parasite”

What Will Win: A series of wins that began at the Golden Globes and culminated last month with the Producers Guild award has thrust the World War I epic “1917” into the unquestioned front-runner. I do not see a way it does not win.

What Should Win: The twisty class-conflict parable “Parasite” was the best film of last year, and while it is a shoo-in to win Best Foreign Language Film, it deserves the overall Best Picture Oscar, too.

What Got Snubbed: The modern-day murder-mystery “Knives Out” was one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking films of the year. It snared a Best Original Screenplay nomination, but it definitely deserves to be in the big category, too.

Best Director

Nominees: Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”; Todd Phillips, “Joker”; Sam Mendes, “1917”; Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”; Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”

Who Will Win: The last time the Directors Guild award winner did not also win the Oscar (when nominated — sorry, “Argo” Ben Affleck) was Rob Marshall for “Chicago” in 2002. The trend will continue this year when Sam Mendes wins his second Oscar, this time for “1917.”

Who Should Win: Bong Joon-ho directed the best film of the year. But Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” was the second best, and this long-gestating, sweeping saga again shows Scorsese at the top of his game.

Who Got Snubbed: J-Lo got all the attention for the underrated “Hustlers,” but the real star of that show was director Lorene Scafaria, who crafted a compelling film with echoes of a feminine “Goodfellas.”

Best Actor

Nominees: Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”; Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”; Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”; Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”

Who Will Win: Adam Driver and Antonio Banderas were the darlings of the critics associations. But the big guilds have gravitated back to Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker,” and that film’s sizable haul of Oscar noms portends a Phoenix win

Who Should Win: Driver’s heart-wrenching portrayal of a flawed husband and father on the brink of divorce in “Marriage Story” deserves the golden statue.

Who Got Snubbed: I cannot believe I am typing this, but Adam Sandler deserves an Oscar nomination. His manic, unlovable hustler in “Uncut Gems” was one of the year’s best performances and most memorable characters.

Best Actress

Nominees: Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”; Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”; Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”; Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”; Renée Zellweger, “Judy”

Who Will Win: Renée Zellweger has steamrolled through the pre-Oscar awards for her portrayal of Judy Garland, and she will win her second Oscar (but her first for Best Actress) this weekend.

Who Should Win: I try to shy away from garish impersonations for these awards, but Zellweger’s affecting performance of an aging, boozy Garland was quite good and the most deserving winner among the nominees.

Who Got Snubbed: How Lupita Nyong’o was not nominated for “Us” is beyond me. Still, my best actress of the year (and biggest snub) was Aisling Franciosi’s raw, captivating turn as a mother and wife suffering and then avenging tragedy in “The Nightingale.”

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”; Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”; Al Pacino, “The Irishman”; Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”; Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Who Will Win: It is a power-packed category. While the SAG Award winner in this category has been a slightly less reliable predictor of the Oscar winner, Brad Pitt seems to be the odds-on favorite, and there appears to be some sentiment to award the popular Pitt his first Academy Award for his fourth nomination.

Who Should Win: Of the listed nominees, I would award Joe Pesci for his haunting yet affecting return to acting in “The Irishman.”

Who Got Snubbed: All that said, none of the nominees were among my favorite three supporting actor performances. Wesley Snipes was terrific in “Dolemite is My Name,” and in most years Shia LaBeouf would deserve to win (you read that right) for his work in “Honey Boy.” But Willem Dafoe was otherworldly, and thus massively snubbed, in the otherwise inscrutable “The Lighthouse.”

Best Supporting Actress

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

Who Will Win: Laura Dern has swept most of the pre-Oscar awards, and she is going to win her first Academy Award for playing a smiling yet savage divorce attorney in “Marriage Story.”

Who Should Win: This is the one major category this year where the nominee who wins is also the one who should win. Dern was fabulous and the clear winner.

Who Got Snubbed: Zhao Shuzhen’s affecting role as a dying grandmother in “The Farewell’’ merited consideration. But all the awards guilds unjustly overlooked Da’Vine Joy Randolph and her outsized, scene-stealing performance in “Dolemite is My Name.”

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