Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

And now for a new category on my blog that will update itself yearly after 13 initial posts covering 2009-21. It’s a simple concept. In 2009 – the Academy shifted their rules from a set amount of five Best Picture nominees to 10. That lasted for 2 years. In 2011, the number could fluctuate anywhere from 5-10. In most years, the magic number was 8 or 9 (it was never less than 8). Last year, the big race reverted back to a definite 10.

So… what if it hadn’t? What if 5 nominees was never altered? Well, Oscar speculators like yours truly would have to write posts predicting what would’ve been the final five. So that’s what this is all about.

Naturally it begins with 2009. Before that, something from 2008 might’ve contributed to the shift when The Dark Knight famously missed BP even though it was a critical darling and box office smash. A shift to 10 allowed popcorn favorites and smaller titles to make the cut. And they did.

When it comes to whittling down from 10 (or later 8 or 9) to five, there’s plenty of factors in play. What else did the movie get nominated for or win? Some races are more important than others like Director and Editing or the Screenplay derbies.

Yet it’s far from an exact science. This is educated guesswork based on Oscar history. I’ll walk through each title and give an ultimate Yes or No on whether it makes the five. The first is automatic and that’s whatever won. In 2009 that honor belonged to…

The Hurt Locker

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes because it won Best Picture.

The other 9? That’s where it gets interesting. Let’s take them alphabetically, shall we?

Avatar

When Oscar nominations rolled out near the beginning of 2010, James Cameron’s 3D sensation was basking in the glow of becoming the biggest movie ever. That meant he was breaking his own record from 13 years earlier with Titanic. Cameron was nominated for Director – losing to ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for Locker. The film also didn’t manage a Screenplay nod though Cameron is known more for his technical prowess than writing skills. On the tech side it managed 7 nods and won three (Art Direction, Cinematography, Visual Effects). So…

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Though it lost a number of its nods to Locker, the gargantuan grosses would’ve been enough for it to advance.

The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock’s crowd pleasing football drama made her an Oscar winner. Yet those are the only two nominations it received as it couldn’t make the Adapted Screenplay shortlist. In fact, Avatar and this are the only two BP nominees not to see their scripts mentioned.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No. This is a perfect example of a blockbuster getting in due to the expansion that wouldn’t have with just five.

District 9

Neill Blomkamp’s acclaimed sci-fi tale was a surprise summer hit and he’s yet to replicate its mix of audience and critical appreciation. It was nominated in three other races – Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, and Film Editing. No wins.

Does It Make the Final Five?

This one is actually close for me. The screenplay and editing nods certainly make it doable. If it had landed Director, I’d probably say yes. A bit of a coin flip, but I’ll land on No.

An Education

The coming-of-age pic scored Carey Mulligan an Actress nod as well as Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that it could’ve snuck in, but gotta go No. It missed a Golden Globe nod for example and a lot of the focus was on Mulligan’s work.

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s WWII opus was his return to significant awards attention 15 years following Pulp Fiction. In addition to the Pic nod, he was nominated for his direction and screenplay (losing both to Locker). Other nominations: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Film Editing, and a Supporting Actor victory for Christoph Waltz.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The 8 nominations are enough to indicate as much.

Precious

The breakthrough drama from Lee Daniels scored five other mentions for Directing, Gabourey Sidibe in Actress, Mo’Nique in Supporting Actress (a victory), Adapted Screenplay (another win), and Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. The screenplay win puts it over the top.

A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers dark comedy received just one other nod for their screenplay with acclaimed lead Michael Stuhlbarg missing the Best Actor cut.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Even with the love for its brotherly makers – No.

Up

As far as I’m concerned, the Pixar masterpiece’s first few minutes should win Best Picture every year. The tearjerker was a rare animated Best Picture contender and it contended for four others. It obviously won Animated Feature as well as Original Score in addition to mentions in Original Screenplay and Sound Editing.

Does It Make the Final Five?

I’m saying No, but I’m not sure of that. I’d probably put it sixth.

Up in the Air

Our other Up contender is Jason Reitman’s workplace dramedy which received six nods. The others were Director, Actor (George Clooney), Supporting Actress (both Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick), and Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. While it retrieved no statues, I think it would’ve just edged other hopefuls such as Up or District 9.

So that means if 2009 had just five Best Picture nominees, I believe they would’ve been:

The Hurt Locker (winner)

Avatar

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

Up in the Air 

An important note – the movies here match the five Best Director nominees. That’s rare and that will be rare in subsequent postings on years that follow. From 2000-2008 that only occurred twice (2005 and 2008). So don’t get used to it.

I shall return soon with my rumblings and final five for 2010!

Licorice Pizza Review

I’ve been grooving to the beat of Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic vibes for a quarter century. There was the magnificent Boogie Nights in 1997 and the iconic Daniel Day-Lewis milkshake monologue in There Will Be Blood ten years later. A decade after that, my PTA appetite was satiated by Phantom Thread. 

His latest is Licorice Pizza and it’s his most laid back experience. This coming-of-age slice of life takes place in the Valley circa 1973. It feels lived in and authentic and personal. There’s individual scenes where the filmmaker’s brilliance is on full display. Like all of his efforts, there’s memorable performances. And unlike most of his catalogue, this Almost Famous feeling flick has flaws I couldn’t overlook. It’s almost joyous and almost worth the viewing and ultimately more problematic than rewarding.

Loosely based on the teen years of former child actor Gary Goetzman (now a highly successful producing partner of Tom Hanks), Cooper Hoffman is 15-year-old Gary Valentine. He’s costarred in movies and commercials and is far more confident than anyone his age has a right to be. That self-assured nature is evident when he asks 25-year-old photographer’s assistant Alana Kane (Alana Haim) out on a date. She rebuffs his advances at first but ends up meeting him out. The two strike up a friendship and the benefit for us is watching Hoffman and Haim shine in their acting debuts. The son of Anderson’s late frequent collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman and one third of a well-known rock band, Hoffman and Haim are naturals. The drawback is an age difference I couldn’t overlook… so let’s go there.

This is where the sunny tone of Pizza conflicted with their borderline (perhaps over borderline) inappropriate coupling. It’s not overtly sexual and Alana is well aware that hanging with the decade younger Gary is far from normal. Yet there’s enough of a leftover distasteful feeling that it hindered the entertainment value for me. One could argue Gary is more mature than Alana and perhaps that justifies some of what happens. That’s a tough needle to thread and I just couldn’t get there.

Pizza has a lazy hangout atmosphere that recalls Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Like that picture, it’s steeped in exploring a different showbiz era and the technical aspects we expect from PTA (production design, cinematography, costumes, and more) are top notch.

The episodic nature is hit or miss. Pizza‘s best course involves Bradley Cooper as hairdresser turned producer Jon Peters. His segment moves at a thrilling clip as Gary’s failing waterbed business and the 70s era gasoline shortage play important roles. I can’t say the same for Sean Penn’s bit as an aging movie star (based on William Holden) and his motorcycle exploits. By the time we arrive at Alana trying a new career as a campaign worker for conflicted mayoral candidate Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie), the pic was starting to run on fumes.

When a director of immense capabilities makes an almost misfire, there’s no denying it’s more of a letdown. That’s where I stand with Licorice Pizza and it brings me no joy to deliver that news.

**1/2 (out of four)

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Director Race

After four posts focusing on the acting races at the 2021 Oscars, it’s time to turn to Best Director. If you missed those entries on the lead and supporting performer derbies, you can find them here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

With the directing category, I do believe there’s three filmmakers that have likely punched their ticket to a nomination. Before we get there, let’s take a look at how my projections panned out at the same early November time frame in 2019 and 2020.

Two years back, I correctly identified four of the five contenders: winner Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) as well as Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Todd Phillips (Joker) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. 2020 was more unpredictable with two months left to go and that resulted in only two directors being accurately named: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), who took the gold, and David Fincher (Mank). Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) was in Other Possibilities while neither Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) or surprise nominee Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) were yet listed in my top ten.

Back to 2021 and the three individuals who I believe stand probable shots at making the cut. They are Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), and Denis Villeneuve (Dune).

It was 28 years ago that Campion was nominated for The Piano. If it hadn’t been for Oscar juggernaut Schindler’s List, she likely would’ve been making a speech. Upon its premiere in Venice, Campion took the Silver Lion (equivalent to this competition) for Dog. I don’t see her being left off the ballot.

Belfast is the current frontrunner for Best Picture and it’s hard to envision  writer/director Branagh not making it in. If so, it would be his first nod in directing since Henry V some 32 years back.

Dune is being heralded for its technical wizardry and it should pick up numerous down the line wins and nominations. Five years after his behind the camera work was recognized for Arrival, Villeneuve should be a factor again.

Interestingly, I don’t feel there’s a clear favorite to win. There are plausible scenarios for any member of this trio to emerge victorious. Campion, Branagh, and Villeneuve constitute my top 3 (in that order), but it’s more of a 1a, 1b, and 1c at press time.

As for the other two slots, there’s a few contenders stemming from unseen product. There’s big names in that bunch: Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley, who won four years ago for The Shape of Water), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza, a two-time nominee for There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread), Ridley Scott (for House of Gucci and not The Last Duel), Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up, previously nominated for The Big Short), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tick, Tick… Boom!), and Steven Spielberg (West Side Story,  a two-time winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan).

Any of these gentlemen could bubble up to the surface once their pictures are screened. I’m sticking with the two I’ve had in my five recently: del Toro and Anderson.

King Richard has a chance to win Best Picture, but I’m skeptical its maker Reinaldo Marcus Green makes it here. The sports drama seems destined to be recognized more for its performances, but if the Academy really falls for it, Green could be theoretically be swept in. That holds true for Joel Coen (The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Pablo Larrain (Spencer) as well.

Lastly, Thomas Vinterberg’s nod in 2020 for Another Round came out of nowhere. While it was pegged to take International Feature Film (which it did), Round was not nominated in Best Picture. There’s a slew of directors who could fill the “surprise” slot this time around (many from foreign features): Pedro Almodovar (Parallel Mothers), Julia Ducournau (Titane), Asghar Farhari (A Hero), Paolo Sorrentino (The Hand of God), Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World). I wouldn’t completely count out Rebecca Hall for Passing. Yet none of these upset selections are in my top ten.

The one that is: Jonas Poher Rasmussen for festival darling Flee. While I don’t have it nabbing a Best Pic nom at the moment, I do foresee the Danish doc contending in Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film. That kind of attention could cause the voters to include him.

Here’s how those rankings look at the start of November:

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 2)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 3)

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 6)

7. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 7)

8. Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: 9)

10. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Julia Ducournau, Titane

Best Picture is next!

Last Night in Soho Review

Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho is about romanticism and the death (often the grisly variety) of it. In this ghost story, the filmmaker pays homage to a far gone thrilling and swinging era in mid 1960s London while maintaining that the nostalgia of those who didn’t live through it might be displaced.

Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) looks at the period from her starry eyes and an ear tuned to its luscious record. She’s only been to present era London as a young girl having grown up in the countryside with her grandmother (Rita Tushingham). Her mother is departed in tragic circumstances that hint she mentally couldn’t handle the glitzy big city life. Her father is as much an apparition as others she encounters.

A college student attending fashion school, Eloise is swiftly out of her element with her snooty dorm mates. Relocating to an upstairs room in a home run by the strict Ms Collins (the late Diana Rigg), her clairvoyance that often includes matriarchal visions moves right along with her. They involve Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer in 1966 whose ambition introduces her to agent Jack (Matt Smith). He’s all charm at first, but darkness lurks with him and many other not so English gentlemen.

As Eloise begins to experience nightly visions of Sandie’s struggles, her own behavior rightfully begins to alarm those in her orbit. That includes John (Michael Ajao), a classmate and potential love interest who’s often the only Londoner that’s kind to her. On the not so nice list is a customer (Terence Stamp) at the local watering hole, a hub of both glamour and glumness 60 years ago, where Eloise works. He might be the key to Sandie’s backstory.

Whether in zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead or Baby Driver (where he figured out a way to make car chases cool again), Wright is a filmmaker with style to spare. Soho is a glorious visual spectacle that shows its work in explaining how Eloise is so taken with the period. And he may be second only to Tarantino nowadays when it comes to killer needle drops in the soundtrack.

Last Night in Soho may not significantly alter the mix in the spirits genre, but Wright certainly has a flair for it. He cheekily employs some British legends like Rigg and Stamp in this ferocious happening. For the former especially, it’s a delicious final role. McKenzie and Taylor-Joy mirror each other in the quality of their performances that grow more terror struck as the clock ticks. Sandie’s London journey begins with hope and ends with her bridge to stardom falling down. Eloise is there to witness it while gasping in horror. We are there to witness Wright at the top of his game.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: The Harder They Fall

Prior to its limited theatrical output on October 22 and Netflix bow on November 3, The Harder They Fall has dropped at the London Film Festival. The late 19th century set Western revenge tale comes from Jeymes Samuel, who wears many hats here as director, writer, producer, and composer. This is a fictional tale consisting of many actual African-American figures from the era. The cast includes Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, and Lakeith Stanfield.

Early reviews are quite positive and Fall stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with the handful of write-ups available thus far. Some critics have compared the violent, funny, and period piece elements to Quentin Tarantino. Of the impressive cast, Elba seems to be garnering lots of ink. Despite Emmy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG nods in his filmography, he’s yet to make the cut with the Academy (his snub in 2015 for Beasts of No Nation was a surprising one).  At the moment, Supporting Actor has very few surefire hopefuls (one could argue there’s none). If Fall is able to land with awards voters, here is an obvious category where it could play.

Regina King could factor in as well though Supporting Actress may already have at least a slot or two filled. She did also win just three years ago for 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk. 

As for the movie itself, I could see a scenario where it gains popularity once it streams and has its pushers for inclusion. I wouldn’t bank on it happening, but I wouldn’t totally discount it.

Finally, there’s the soundtrack which includes original tracks from Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, and Kid Cudi. Mr. Z (who also produces) could find himself in a slot for the Original Song five. If he manages to do so, he’d almost certainly be competing against Mrs. Z (aka Beyonce, who’s got a close to assured nod for “Be Alive” from King Richard).

Bottom line: we need to see what kind of reaction The Harder They Fall garners when it steams, but the buzz is sturdy enough now to indicate a potential contender. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Mad Women’s Ball

Stateside audiences may know Melanie Laurent best as Shosanna in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but the French actress has been directing in her native county for a decade now. Following Adopted (2011) and Respire (2014), her latest is The Mad Women’s Ball and it is streaming on Amazon Prime as of yesterday.

Laurent costars in the thriller that premiered days ago in Toronto. Costarring Lou de Laage and Emmanuelle Bercot, Ball currently has a 77% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s under her predecessor Respire (93%). I’m not so sure France will even submit this for the Academy’s consideration in International Feature Film and this appears unlikely to find its way on ballots in any other categories.

My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

My first round of Oscar predictions in this topsy turvy time known as 2020 arrives at Best Director. If you missed my initial take on the four acting races, you can find them all here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/11/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

I’ve already discussed the challenges of making these August projections and many of them are the same as any other year. Yet it’s even trickier now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever shifting release dates that accompany it. This is why I’ve left off Wes Anderson and The French Dispatch as its premiere is especially in flux. If word comes out in the near future to its unveiling, he would almost certainly be in the top 15.

Some of the pictures and their makers listed here will (at least right now) be seen in the next few weeks at festivals. As for Tenet, the latest from Christopher Nolan is expected to be out in limited fashion stateside by month’s end.

2019 was a bit more stable and I correctly identified 4 of the eventual 5 nominees in my first late summer predictions. That includes winner Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese, (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). My only miss was Todd Phillips for Joker and I didn’t even have him in the 10 other possibilities.

Let’s get to it with my introductory look at the players vying for behind the camera accolades!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR

David Fincher, Mank

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

Paul Greengrass, News of the World

Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

Francis Lee, Ammonite

Tom McCarthy, Stillwater

Mike Mills, C’Mon C’Mon

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

I’ll have the big daddy of them all – Best Picture – up in short order! Stay tuned…

Daily Streaming Guide: April 7th Edition

A late 1970s set comedic crime caper is featured in today’s streaming guide and is available through HBO’s services:

Shane Black’s The Nice Guys casts Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as private eyes who team to find a missing teen played by Margaret Qualley, who broke out last year with her role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The writer/director is known for his private eye tales. If you haven’t seen Black’s 2005 effort Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, mark it down as a must watch too.

Guys incorporates Black’s humorous touches with some hard edged bits. The chemistry of Crowe and Gosling works well and this is another solid effort from a talented filmmaker.

That does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 26th Edition

Today’s Daily Streaming Guide features two potboilers from the 1980s with political overtones. Both are available on Amazon Prime:

Brian De Palma’s 1981 effort Blow Out stars John Travolta, Nancy Allen, and John Lithgow. Arriving after a trio of hits for the lead (Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Urban Cowboy), audiences didn’t really know what to make of it upon release. It has since developed a deserved following (Quentin Tarantino is among the ardent fans). As a sound technician embroiled in a murder plot, Blow Out gives us one of Travolta’s finest performances.

Roger Donaldson’s 1987 noir pic No Way Out finds Kevin Costner as a Naval officer uncovering dirty deeds by Gene Hackman’s Defense Secretary. Costarring Sean Young, who’s involved in a love triangle with the leads, the film is a solid thriller that cemented Costner’s leading man status.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

FINAL 2019 Oscar Winner Predictions

And here we are! After one year plus of speculating about the Academy Awards ceremony that will air this Sunday evening, we arrive at my final prediction posts on the winners!

For all 21 races encompassing feature-length films, I am giving you my analysis with my pick and the runner-up in case I’m wrong (which is bound to occur). A broad overview includes these thoughts:

  • There are undeniable strong front-runners in all four acting categories – so much so that even picking a runner-up is a challenge. If anyone other than my quartet wins, it’ll constitute an upset.
  • This is not the case in the other major races and that includes Picture and Director and both screenplay categories.
  • Other matchups are practical coin tosses and that includes Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Production Design, and Visual Effects.

I’m going to begin with the tech races and build up from there. So let’s get to it!

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: We start with a relatively easy one as the work of Roger Deakins in 1917 appears to have this in the bag. Anything else would be a surprise, but Hollywood could potentially challenge.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: Here’s another one where Hollywood could get it, but I will predict voters go back a bit further to the stylings of Little Women (for what could definitely be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: LITTLE WOMEN

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite

Analysis: Both The Irishman and Parasite are possibilities here, but I believe Ferrari has the upper hand (for what could be its sole victory).

PREDICTED WINNER: FORD V FERRARI

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Nominees: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, 1917

Analysis: Bombshell appears to be the sturdy favorite here. And like a broken record, this likely stands as its only win. Joker or Judy would be the upset contenders.

PREDICTED WINNER: BOMBSHELL

Runner-Up: Joker

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: Thomas Newman (1917) has been nominated numerous times without a victory and the consensus for a while is that he would finally get his due. However, Joker has pretty much swept the precursors.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOKER

Runner-Up: 1917

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet

Analysis: It was a bit of a shocker that this stands as the only nod for Rocketman, which was expected to garner attention in Makeup and Hairstyling and the sound races. Yet the Academy is probably poised to get Sir Elton John up to the stage.

PREDICTED WINNER: “I’M GONNA LOVE ME AGAIN” FROM ROCKETMAN

Runner-Up: “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II

Best Production Design

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Along with Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay, this race marks the best shot for Hollywood to nab an Oscar. Frankly, this is a fairly wide open category where there is a narrative for any of the nominees to take it. I’m going to pick Hollywood by a hair.

PREDICTED WINNER: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Parasite

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: In both Sound races, I feel it comes down to Ford 1917. In each case, I’ll give it to 1917.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing

The Nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Analysis: See Sound Editing

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: Ford v Ferrari

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Analysis: This is a tough one. Other than Skywalker, I feel any of the competitors could squeeze out a win. With 1917 picking up other tech races, I’ll give it the slight advantage. This wasn’t the case a month or two ago, but this might actually be the likeliest category for an Irishman Oscar.

PREDICTED WINNER: 1917

Runner-Up: The Irishman 

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4

Analysis: This one has been all over the map. Klaus picked up some key precursors. Missing Link surprised everyone by taking the Golden Globe. The Academy could choose to honor the Dragon franchise as a whole. I Lost My Body has its ardent admirers. Ultimately I’m playing it safe and betting Pixar manages to top all of them, though I’m less confident than usual about that.

PREDICTED WINNER: TOY STORY 4

Runner-Up: Klaus

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland

Analysis: For Sama is a legit contender and Honeyland being nominated here and in International Feature Film (which it will not win) could mean something. American Factory, however, has held slight front runner status for some time. This is a coin flop, but we’ve seen surprises here before and I’ll lean towards that.

PREDICTED WINNER: FOR SAMA

Runner-Up: American Factory

Best International Feature Film

The Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite

Analysis: Let’s not complicate this. It’s going to be Parasite. 

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: I guess… Pain and Glory?

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes

Analysis: There is definitely a chance that Greta Gerwig for Little Women could take this, especially after her Oscar snub for directing. The precursor attention, on the other hand, has mainly gone to Jojo for what might be its solo award.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOJO RABBIT

Runner-Up: Little Women

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

Analysis: Quentin could pick up his third statue here after Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, but the Parasite love seems stronger.

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actor

The 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)

Analysis: With the Irishmen splitting votes and Pitt taking every significant precursor, this is an easy one.

PREDICTED WINNER: BRAD PITT, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runner-Up: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell). Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

Analysis: Johansson being a double nominee is tough to ignore and I believe she’s got a slightly better shot here than in Actress. Her costar Dern, though, has swept the season.

PREDICTED WINNER: LAURA DERN, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-Up: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Best Actor

The 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)

Analysis: Here’s a race where there were about a dozen performances vying for five spots. At the end of the day, the competition was fun to witness but Phoenix has picked up all the hardware thus far and I don’t see that stopping on Sunday.

PREDICTED WINNER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX, JOKER

Runner-Up: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress

The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Analysis: Zellweger could the most vulnerable of the favored quartet with Theron or Johansson in the wings. It would be foolish to bet against her based on what’s already happened.

PREDICTED WINNER: RENEE ZELLWEGER, JUDY

Runner-Up: Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Best Director

The Nominees: Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

Analysis: Even with heavyweights like Scorsese and Tarantino in the mix, this has come down to Joon-Ho vs. Mendes. And the latter has won the Golden Globe and the DGA (which has a steady track record of naming the winner here).

PREDICTED WINNER: SAM MENDES, 1917

Runner-Up: Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Best Picture

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

Analysis: Ugh… OK. Let’s begin with this: the smart money is on 1917. It won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and the Critics Choice Award. Mendes took the DGA and I have him picked to win Director.

On the contrary – in the 2010s, we have seen a Picture/Director split 5 out of 9 times. No foreign language film has ever won the biggest prize of all. Last year, I (along with many others) predicted Roma would be the first to do so and it lost to Green Book. 

That said, the affection for Parasite feels deeper than for Roma. I’ll make this pronouncement now… if Parasite loses Original Screenplay on Sunday night, you’ll pretty much know my prediction is wrong. Yet I’m rolling the dice here for a minor surprise and that’s why…

PREDICTED WINNER: PARASITE

Runner-Up: 1917

My predictions pan out to the following films winning these many Oscars:

5 Wins

1917

3 Wins

Parasite

2 Wins

Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

1 Win

American Factory, Bombshell, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Judy, Little Women, Marriage Story, Rocketman, Toy Story 4

These calls also mean every nominated Best Picture player will win an Oscar with the exception of The Irishman, which I’m estimating will go 0 for 10.

And that does it, folks! The speculation has ended and the ceremony is two days away. I’ll have a recap post on how I did Sunday night…