Photo Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images
When I sat down last year to write my preview of the 91st Academy Awards, the Oscars were in a state of chaos. Kevin Hart had been fired as host, the Best Popular Film award was scrapped after being met with a chorus of boos and hisses, and the Academy caved on their decision to bestow certain awards during commercial breaks. It was a moment when the very legitimacy and necessity of this nine-decade old institution was being questioned, but most viewers’ fears were quelled by the time the ceremony actually aired and the show itself began to move a bit more smoothly. All of the goodwill generated by airing the full slate of awards and bringing back last years winners as presenters was immediately dashed when Julia Roberts opened the envelope and announced the backward looking, Polly Anna-ish Green Book as that year’s Best Picture winner over critical favorites like Roma, BlacKkKlansman, and The Favourite.
As vexing as last year’s tumult was, it’s hard not to be a little nostalgic for all of the panic and hand wringing considering how predictable this year’s awards figure to be. Sam Mendes’s single-ish shot World War I drama 1917 has been cleaning up all month, taking home top honors at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, DGAs, and PGAs, as well as key technical wins like the ASC award. 1917 isn’t without competitors — Once Upon A Time in Hollywood took home a Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice Award, while Parasite won big at the WGAs and SAGs — but a sense of inevitability has begun to set in around Best Picture, and its started to infect the other categories as well. Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt, and Laura Dern have been rolling the contests in their respective categories with nearly as much ease, and come into Oscars night as heavy favorites. On paper that foursome — which includes three beloved but Oscar-less stars and a rare successful comeback story in the case of Zellweger — should be an exciting group of victors, but their nearly uncontested path towards Sunday night has dulled a bit of their shine. It’ll still be satisfying to see Brad Pitt take home an Oscar, sure, but the suspense that would make it that much sweeter is all but absent.
How did we end up with what feels like such a predictable ceremony? The answer most likely lies with the one change that the Academy did manage to see through: an earlier airdate. Traditionally taking place on the last weekend in February (and in some cases the first week in March), this year’s Academy Awards will air three weeks earlier than last year’s. Like most of changes to the Oscars format and procedure, this change was ostensibly made to boost viewership, but since Hollywood is a delicate and co-dependent ecosystem, it had the added effect of shortening awards season as well. Awards shows that were once spread out over nearly two months have now been condensed into one, and the gap between the nominations announcement and the ceremony itself was cut down by nearly a week. This gives voters less time to vote, which means it gives studios less time to campaign, which means it gives voters less time to watch all of the movies they should, with the likely result being they end up ticking the box of the candidates they’ve been told they should vote for as opposed to the ones they may want to vote for.
If this truncated season has made me realize anything, it’s that my inner sleazy tabloid journalist really does appreciate a good campaign. And I’m not just talking about the glad-handing and mudslinging orchestrated by the studios — I also mean the articles written by journalists and the discussions started by film fans about the merits of each nominee, a crucial facet of the awards season experience that has felt lacking this year. Maybe I’ve been caught up in the excitement of the Super Bowl and the inanity of the Iowa caucuses (get ready for a lot of hacky jokes about the latter on Sunday), but Nick Schager’s piece for Esquire taking Jojo Rabbit to task for what he alleges is its sanitized depiction of Nazism. I’ve been following the awards coverage of sites like The Ringer and The Playlist, sure, but Schager’s article seemed almost out of place on my newsfeed, a stray shot in a war that most people seemed to have stopped fighting.
There’s an argument to be made that the campaigning happened, it just happened much earlier. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Irishman were both taken to task for their depictions (or lack thereof) of female characters around their release date, and Martin Scorsese launched a thousand thinkpieces (and penned one of his own) when he declared superhero films to not be “cinema.”1I’m not entirely sold on the idea that Avengers: Endgame should have been nominated for Best Picture, but if the Academy really wanted to boost viewership, they’d have that and The Irishman duking it out for the top prize for sure.
At least one writer (somewhat bizarrely) lamented Little Women’s lack of non-white characters, while Marriage Story was chided in some circles as an angry, self-glorifying screed by a bitter man directed at his ex-wife. And Joker, of course, was an absolute fucking lightning rod that was struck from all angles, be it journalists who seemed convinced that it would inspire real world violence or critics who thought it was artless and derivative. The only films that seemed to have gone unscathed are Ford v Ferrari, which figures to be a non-factor on Oscar night, and Parasite, which has been the subject of rapturous acclaim. Even presumptive favorite 1917 has begun to catch some flack, with some observers arguing that its insufficiently critical of war and, through its technical flare, actually ends up glorifying warlike imagery. The campaigns have now been rolled into the films’ release cycle, and whoever hits the perfect balance of coming out of the press and thinkpiece meat grinder unscathed and providing Academy voters with the kind of movie they want to see ends up with the most likely chance to win.
Perhaps the lesson to learn from what feels like a lifeless awards season is that we don’t need the Oscars to generate conversation about film — as evidenced by my previous paragraph, it’s a conversation that’s ongoing, and one that will continue whenever new films are released. But it’s still hard for me to accept that a Best Picture race that includes films from Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, a comedy about Nazis, a pair of films directed by either half of the same romantic couple, a movie that launched a ridiculous moral panic, and one that touches on the timely issues of class and privilege could have ended up as boring as this one did. I know art doesn’t need to be a competition, but I do like the idea of holding a group of films up against each other and trying to figure out their relative merits, what they say about us, the artists who make them, the art form itself, and which, ultimately, is the best. In past years, the Oscars helped facilitate this conversation by keeping us in suspense about which movie they thought was best, and it feels like a missed opportunity that we aren’t getting that same experience this time around.
But, hey, Brokeback Mountain and La La Land were sure things once upon a time. Maybe we’ll end up getting surprised after all….
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
What Will Win: 1917, which is a perfectly copacetic film, but it just feels so boring. I respect the technical chops Mendes showed off and all, but you can’t tell me that ten years from now it’ll be held in higher esteem than The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story, and Parasite. I really want to believe that we’ve been lulled into a false sense of inevitability and that Parasite and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (which have been winning all the big awards that 1917 hasn’t) will end up pulling an upset, but I got cute with my Best Picture picks the last two years, and I won’t repeat the same mistake this time around.
What Should Win: I’ve seen 8 of the 9 nominees, and even though I certainly think some films are more deserving than others, I would be fine with most of these winning. With that being said, The Irishman is a powerful, probing statement from one of the greatest American directors of all time about not only his legacy and mortality, but that of his closest friends of collaborators, all of whom happen to be some of the most iconic artists in Hollywood history. It’s a celebration, indictment, and meditation all at once, and the best thing I saw all year.
Upset Special: Parasite is one of the best reviewed movies of the decade, and it’s been the first choice of voters for awards that 1917 either wasn’t up for (the SAGs), or whose visual first approach put it at a disadvantage (the WGAs). Actors and writers make up a decent share of the voting bloc, and they could come together to overwhelm the more technical branches that might prefer 1917.
Bong Joon-ho – Parasite
Sam Mendes – 1917
Todd Phillips – Joker
Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Who Will Win: Sam Mendes has gone nearly undefeated in every major director award out there, and 1917 is exactly the kind of movie that wins this award nowaday — full of technical flair and massive set pieces.
Who Should Win: I didn’t love Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but I was convinced that it was going to net Tarantino his first Best Picture and Best Director wins, which I would’ve been fine with. But just as I would for Best Picture, I’d cast my vote for Martin Scorsese and The Irishman.
Upset Special: If Parasite does end up upsetting 1917 for Best Picture, it’ll probably be preceded by a win or Bong Joon-ho in this category as well. Bong’s awards season run has been a sort of stateside coming out party for the South Korean filmmaker, and it may have been enough to charm voters into sending him home with a statuette, his past statements about the Oscars and fatigue for the process notwithstanding
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: There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Joker, but everyone seems to agree that Joaquin Phoenix delivers an impeccable performance.
Who Should Win: I’d have to agree that Phoenix gives a powerfully disturbing performance; if Heath Ledger’s Joker was effective because of his seemed like a chaotic force of the universe, Phoenix’s is effective because he seems like he could be anyone who’s had too many bad days in a row. With that being said, the most entertaining sequence I saw from an actor all year would have to be the trailer scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It’s funny, sure, but it also sees DiCaprio jump from self-loathing to self-pitying to self-destructively determined in the span of a minute and a half. Anyone who’s ever felt trapped by their own worst impulses can see themselves in that scene.
Upset Special: Marriage Story is a film that’s defined by the capital A Acting of its two leads and even though they were both nominated, Driver’s the one who seemed to make the bigger impression. He’s great in the memed to death argument scene, sure, but it’s the sequence with the social worker, and his balance of awkward energy and unexpected physical comedy, that could put him over the top.
Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Saorise Ronan – Little Women
Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Renee Zellweger – Judy
Who Will Win: Hollywood loves itself, and it loves contemporary actors playing actors of yore, which is why Renee Zellweger has been such a juggernaut all season, and she’s a layup to win on Sunday night.
Who Should Win: Of the nominated performances, I’ve only seen Johansson and Ronan’s, and while I loved Marriage Story, there was something about ScarJo’s big showcases that felt a little too stagey to me. Ronan, who’s great, will absolutely win an Oscar one day, and whose charming brogue will deliver a fantastic speech, gets my vote by default.
Upset Special: Charlize Theron, who looked so much like Megyn Kelly in Bombshell I kept forgetting Charlize Theron was even in this movie and did a double take when I anonymous Oscar voters brought her up in this EW feature. Would it be painfully tone deaf for the Academy to reward someone for portraying Kelly, who’s still bitter that she was fired for downplaying the offensiveness of blackface, in a relatively heroic light? It would, but organizations run by rich, old white people have never been afraid of embarrassing themselves in the past.
Best Supporting Actor
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: Brad Pitt will take home a long overdue award for his charming, hangdog performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It’s the kind of turn that makes you want to grab a beer with the guy, and then makes you feel vindicated when Tarantino lets you come as close as you ever will to doing just that.
Who Should Win: I can’t argue with Pitt (anyone who still looks this good at 50 deserves some kind of recognition), but is he better than Al Pacino’s irascible yet gentle Jimmy Hoffa, or Joe Pesci’s cold and business-like Russell Buffalino? I can’t say that he is, and if I had a vote I’d be compelled to go with Pesci, whose steely glower is as scary as anything Phoenix pulled off in Joker.
Upset Special: Pesci is the most likely runner up, but I could also see an Academy fed up with the oppressive darkness of current events reward the beloved Tom Hanks for portraying the beloved Mr. Rogers. At the very least, it’d let them capture some of the magic of Hanks’s Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech at this year’s Globes.
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh – Little Women
Margot Robbie – Bombshell
Who Will Win: Laura Dern, who’s on the Academy’s Board of Governors and who’s long overdue for an Oscar win. The fact that she has one of the showier supporting roles in Marriage Story may make this feel like a typical lifetime achievement award win, but the way she flips from a cool, calculating, almost too friendly attorney into a very visibly pissed off woman in her big speech scene is impressive.
Who Should Win: I advocated for Florence Pugh to get a Best Actress nomination for Midsommar, but I’m fine if we have to settle for giving her a win for Little Women instead. The character she plays is very much the “sellout” of the sisters, which makes her one of the closest things to a villain in this film. But the way she exclaims “It’s Laurie!” after seeing her Timothee Chalamet for the first time in (what is presumably) years carries with it the warmth of a thousand suns and the purity of a newborn fawn.
Upset Special: 11 actors have been nominated for both a leading and supporting role in the same and year, and of those 11, 7 have won at least one of those awards.2For those of you keeping score at home, the distinguished near dozen are: Faye Bainter in 1938 (Lost lead for White Banners, won supporting for Jezebel), Teresa Wright in 1941 (Lost lead for The Pride of the Yankees, won supporting for Mrs. Miniver), Barry Fitzgerald in 1944 (Was nominated in both lead and supporting for Going My Way, but only won supporting; there are rules that prevent this from happening now), Jessica Lange in 1982 (Lost lead for Frances, won supporting for Tootsie), Sigourney Weaver in 1988 (Lost lead and supporting for Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl, respectively), Al Pacino in 1992 (Won lead for Scent of a Woman, lost supporting for Glengarry Glen Ross), Holly Hunter in 1993 (Won lead for The Piano, lost supporting for The Firm), Emma Thompson in 1993 (Lost lead and supporting for The Remains of the Day and In the Name of the Father, respectively), Julianne Moore in 2002 (Lost lead and supporting for Far From Heaven and The Hours, respectively), Jamie Foxx in 2004 (Won lead for Ray, lost supporting for Collateral), and Cate Blanchett in 2007 (Lost lead and supporting for Elizabeth: The Golden Age and I’m Not There, respectively). Like all the other topline categories, Best Supporting Actress feels all but over, but if there is an upset, history suggests it may be ScarJo.
Best Original Screenplay
Knives Out – Written by Rian Johnson
Marriage Story – Written by Noah Baumbach
1917 – Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Written by Quentin Tarantino
Parasite – Written by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
Who Will Win: Screenplay is where the Academy tends to reward edgier fare that doesn’t have a chance at Best Picture, and considering that Parasite is already a pretty strong contender, this feels like one award it could win and leave some people thinking about a big upset later on in the show.
Who Should Win: Parasite is a meticulous film that manages to pull off a hard left turn about midway through without missing a beat. It’s layered and deliberate, meaningful and yet not afraid to poke fun at itself at the same time. It’s the best written film of the year.
Upset Special: “Upset” feels like a strong term since it took home the Critics’ Choice Award and WAG award for screenwriting, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the second strongest contender in this category. I’d pick it to win if Tarantino didn’t already have two of these awards under his belt.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Irishman – Written by Steven Zaillian, based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt
Jojo Rabbit – Written by Taika Waititi, based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens
Joker – Written by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, based on the characters created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson
Little Women – Written by Greta Gerwig, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
The Two Popes – Written by Anthony McCarten, based on his play The Pope
Who Will Win: Taika Waititi took home of the BAFTA and WAG award for his irreverent Hitler Youth comedy (now that’s series of words I’d never thought I’d see strung together), his Wes Anderson-esque take on World War II is original and daring enough to shock and delight voters.
Who Should Win: I liked Jojo Rabbit ok, but what it had in charm and wit it lacked in structure, and the whole film kind of starts to fall apart towards the end. Little Women, on the other hand, is elegantly plotted and balances its sweeping chronology with ease. It’s a story that’s been done to death, but Greta Gerwig breathed new life into it by weaving in some clever and touching metacommentary into this classic tale.
Upset Special: Gerwig’s screenplay has already won the Critics’ Choice Award, and some voters may use a win here as a sort of make up for snubbing her for Best Director.
Best Animated Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Toy Story 4
What Will Win: It didn’t feel like there was a bona fide animated hit this year, and the result is a pretty weak field without a lot of name recognition. My guess is that voters will go for Toy Story 4 by default, giving Pixar its fifth Oscar of the decade.
What Should Win: The only nominee I’ve seen is Toy Story 4, and while I had fun with it, it also felt a bit like a cash grab commissioned to Pixar by their Disney overlords. I don’t want to encourage such behavior, so let’s go with I Lost My Body, a quirky looking French film.
Upset Special: Klaus won best feature at the Annie Awards, which is a pretty big feather in the cap of this movie that most voters likely haven’t seen. But who knows, maybe it has a secret following among the Hollywood elite.
Best International Feature Film
Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Les Miserables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea)
What Will Win: Parasite is nominated for both Best International Feature Film and Best Picture. The transitive property would therefore state that the Academy believes that Parasite is the best international feature film of the year.
What Should Win: Parasite, if only so the Academy doesn’t tear a hole in the universe by so flagrantly violating the transitive property in the event of its loss.
Upset Special: With a win in this category and best original screenplay as well as a Best Director nomination, Pedro Almodovar is arguably one of the Academy’s favorite foreign filmmakers. If the Academy did want to burn down the basic rules of math and logic to the ground, it’d make sense if his semi-autobiographical Pain and Glory would be the one to do it.
Best Documentary Feature
The Edge of Democracy
What Will Win: American Factory took home the DGA’s documentary award and tells the story of a Midwestern manufacturing town whose fate is now inextricably tied to a Chinese corporation. You couldn’t ask for a more timely subject, and it helps that American Factory was also produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, two people you may have heard of.
What Should Win: I haven’t seen any of these movies, but, sure, American Factory sounds important and informative.
Upset Special: Thanks to new Academy rules that made documentaries and animated films eligible in the International Feature category, Honeyland is the rare documentary nominee to snag multiple nominations at one ceremony. It’s clear that voters really like this film, and a win here could seem pretty obvious in hindsight.
Best Documentary Short Subject
In the Absence
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk Run Cha-Cha
What Will Win: I’m sure it’s a fine film about what sounds like a fine organization, but the parenthetical in Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) feels like it was tacked on to specifically cater to Oscar voters. “What’s that, you’re not impressed that our documentary is merely about giving hope to sad children in a dangerous situation? What if I told you it was about feminism too!” Anyway, I think it’ll probably work.
What Should Win: Three of these four nominees are about children in peril, so maybe Walk Run Cha-Cha for something that’s not a complete and total bummer?
Upset Special: St. Louis Superman, which tells the story of Bruce Franks Jr., a Black Lives Matter activist who ended up being elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. Activism and social justice are catnip for Oscar voters.
Best Live Action Short Film
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
What Will Win: I never have a read on these things, but Nefta Football Club won a whopping seven awards at festivals around the world, which seems to suggest it has some broad appeal.
What Should Win: Again, haven’t seen any of these, but let’s go with Nefta Football Club, since it has the least generic title.
Upset Special: A Sister, which also picked up some awards on the festival circuit.
Best Animated Short
What Will Win: So Hair Love is about a father doing his daughter’s hair, narrated by Issa Rae? Give them the award now.
What Should Win: I miss traditional animation, and I like cats and dogs. Ergo, Kitbull is my choice in this list of films I have not seen.
Upset Special: Dcera, another festival darling that, according to Wikipedia, was inspired in part by Dogme 95. Such an arty pedigree could tantalize some voters.
Best Original Score
Joker – Hildur Guðnadottir
Little Women – Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story – Randy Newman
1917 – Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – John Williams
What Will Win: Hildur Guðnadottir’s score for Joker has been nominated for 8 awards this year and has won 7 of them. She’s a lock if there ever was one.
What Should Win: I know that the Joker score has been oft parodied and is closely tied with the most pretentious, eye rolling inducing parts of the movie but on its own, it’s a chilling piece of music. I know that voters are supposed to consider the music as it relates to the film, but still, it’s by far the most memorable of the nominees. Apologies to Alexandre Desplat and his perfect work on the dance in Little Women, a score I otherwise found too flowery.
Upset Special: 1917. It’s not good listening, exactly, but Thomas Newman’s score heightens the already pulse-pounding stakes of the film.
Best Original Song
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – from Toy Story 4, music and lyrics by Randy Newman, performed by Randy Newman
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – from Rocketman, music by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin, performed by Elton John and Taron Egerton
“I’m Standing With You” – from Breakthrough, music and lyrics by Diane Warren; performed by Chrissie Metz
“Into the Unknown” – from Frozen 2, music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, performed by Idina Menzel featuring Aurora
“Stand Up” – from Harriet, music and lyrics by Josuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo, performed by Cynthia Erivo
What Will Win: When you get the chance to give a larger than life legend an award right before their retirement, you take it. Elton John gets the win here.
What Should Win: This is a weak, weak year for category that’s routinely terrible. So bad in fact that they nominated a drippy ballad from a drippy faith based film that I’m sure almost no one in the Academy actually saw. Based on pure musical quality, I guess I’ll have to go with “Stand Up,” which at the very least has the most impressive vocal performance of the bunch (Randy Newman is really phoning it in on “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away”).
Upset Special: “Into the Unknown,” because if every Academy member with kids has probably taken them to see Frozen 2, and has probably had to buy them the soundtrack as well (or queue it up for them on Spotify or something, back in my day you annoyed your parents about buying an actual physical CD of High School Musical or whatever the hot musical of the day was).
Best Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari – Donald Sylvester
Joker – Alan Robert Murray
1917 – Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Wylie Stateman
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker – Matthew Wood and David Acord
What Will Win: 1917, because as I’ve said already, it’s the most technically overwhelming of the nominees, and its whole “you’re right there in the trenches” aesthetic can at least partially be credited to its sound. I also think the showiness of it makes the movie feel like a video game in parts, but I don’t have a vote (yet).
What Should Win: Whatever the merits of each individual entry in the series, a highpoint of Star Wars has always been the sound. The hum of a lightsaber, the scream of a TIE fighter, PLUS they had to mix in all of those Jedi voices at the end — it’s time these movies are recognized for what they do best!
Upset Special: I haven’t seen Ford v Ferrari yet but I hear it’s very loud, which means that the sound work is probably very visible (er, audible), and voters just looking to breeze through their ballot may pick it for that reason.
Best Sound Mixing
Ad Astra – Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, and Mark Ulano
Ford v Ferrari – Paul Massey, David Giammarco, and Steven A. Morrow
Joker – Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, and Tod Maitland
1917 – Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler, and Mark Ulano
What Will Win: 1917, for the aforementioned reasons.
What Should Win: This is going to sound a little dumb, I think there’s something pretty impressive about the way that the sound from Cliff Booth’s car radio and the sound of L.A. traffic was mixed together and made to feel natural during the driving scenes in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Great use of a soundtrack too, which reminds me: there should be a Best Music Direction Oscar!
Upset Special: Ford v Ferrari, for the other aforementioned reasons.
Best Production Design
The Irishman – Production Design: Bob Shaw; Set Decoration: Regina Graves
Jojo Rabbit – Production Design: Ra Vincent; Set Decoration: Nora Sopkova
1917 – Production Design: Deniss Gassner; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Production Design: Barbara Ling; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
Parasite – Production Design: Lee Ha-jun; Set Decoration: Son Won-woo
What Will Win: This is an LA crowd, and one of the most buzzed about parts of Once Upon a Time is the way it recreated late-60s LA in perfect detail, so I think that gets the win.
What Should Win: I’d be fine with a Hollywood win, but the house in Parasite felt like a character in and of itself. Its modern, clean to the point of creepy aesthetic played a big role in the strange and shocking nature of the film.
Upset Special: Again, voters could just find themselves checking boxes when they get to the more technical categories, which makes me think 1917 is also a real threat as well.
The Irishman – Rodrigo Prieto
Joker – Lawrence Sher
The Lighthouse – Jarin Blaschke
1917 – Roger Deakins
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Robert Richardson
What Will Win: 1917 became a favorite the second everyone heard it’d been made to look like it took place in one continuous shot. Add in the fact that it was shot by Roger Deakins, who’s basically the Michael Jordan of cinematographers, and you got yourself an easy win.
What Should Win: I think people tend to think about the visual aspect of cinematography as opposed to the movement aspect of it, and Roger Deakins deserves the award for how smoothly he had to keep everything running alone. That said, Yorick Le Saux, who made Little Women look like a painting come to life, was absolutely snubbed in this category.
Upset Special: Robert Richardson, a two time winner and one of the most striking visual presences at the awards themselves.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Bombshell – Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker
Joker – Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
Judy – Jeremy Woodhead
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten, and David White
1917 – Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis, and Rebecca Cole
What Will Win: Bombshell, because the one thing the average person has probably remembers of this movie is thinking “wow, they sure did make Charlize Theron look a lot like Megyn Kelly!”
What Should Win: Of the nominees, I’ve only seen Joker and 1917 and… I feel like neither should have been nominated? Maybe I don’t know enough about the craft, but I don’t know what separates 1917’s makeup and hairstyling from other war movies, and I feel like the biggest lift in Joker would’ve been the actual clown makeup on Joaquin Phoenix. It looked good, but asking a professional makeup artist to do that feels like asking an architect to make you a house out of Lincoln Logs or something. So I guess I’ll go with Bombshell too.
Upset Special: Judy, another film in which the makeup and hair department was tasked with making one famous person look like another famous person.
Best Costume Design
The Irishman – Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
Jojo Rabbit Mayes C. Rubeo
Joker – Mark Bridges
Little Women – Jacqueline Durran
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Arianne Phillips
What Will Win: Little Women. Period pieces with big dresses always win this award, and Jacqueline Durran is an Academy favorite
What Should Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood had me wondering if I could pull off the Brad Pitt in moccasins look, and I’ve definitely seen an uptick in women wearing snakeskin and white boots since it came out. Not only did Arianne Phillips have to come up with looks for Hollywood movers and shakers and grimy hippies, she also had to design period appropriate costumes for the period TV show Leonardo DiCaprio is shooting in the first half of the movie. Layers!
Upset Special: Once Upon a TIme in Hollywood, because it so perfectly evokes its era.
Best Film Editing
Ford v Ferrai – Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker
The Irishman – Thelma Schoonmaker
Jojo Rabbit – Tom Eagles
Joker – Jeff Groth
Parasite – Yang Jin-mo
What Will Win: This is the rare year in which the prospective Best Picture favorite isn’t also up for Best Editing. My guess is they give it to The Irishman, partly because Thelma Schoonmaker is a legend, partly because it takes a lot of skill to chop together a three and a half hour behemoth that juggles multiple timelines.
What Should Win: The Irishman. The opening I Heard You Paint Houses sequence is incredible (and also should’ve been the name of the movie).
Upset Special: One of the bits of genius in an otherwise uneven movie is Jojo Rabbit’s title sequence, set to a German version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” It makes its point in a provocative and incisive way and sets the weird tone of the film right off the bat.
Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Endgame – Dan DeLeeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl, and Dan Sudick
The Irishman – Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Stephane Grabli, and Nelson Sepulveda
The Lion King – Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Elliot Newman
1917 – Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler, and Dominic Tuohy
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach, and Dominic Tuohy
What Will Win: Jon Favreu’s “live action” The Jungle Book won this award two years ago, and seeing how this never seems to go to a superhero movie or Star Wars movie, my guess is they reward The Lion King for pretty much doing the same thing.
What Should Win: I mean The Lion King effects look good and all, but I also think that’s part of what made the movies bad (real animals can’t emote!). The Irishman’s deaging effects were really only so good too, and the rats in 1917 looked very obviously CGI as well. I suppose I’ll go with Avengers: Endgame, which blessed us with dabbing Hulk.
Upset Special: 1917, since it figures to win nearly everything else come Oscar night.