Hello movie lovers. This last minute pre-Oscar prediction post serves a dual purpose. It’s to be read now and/or laughed at after the Oscars once I’ve shown that my crystal ball is totally defective. If you’ve been living under a rock the Best Picture field looks like so:
- Ford V Ferrari
- The Irishman
- Jojo Rabbit
- Little Women
- Marriage Story
- Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
Not all of them will go home as Oscar winners but all nine have a decent shot in at least one category. There are several tight races but two things are beyond certain: Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, a masterful hugely entertaining thriller about the haves and have-nots of society will win at least one (Best International Feature) and so will Sam Mendes’ continuous shot war drama 1917 (Best Cinematography). I mention these two before we begin because one of the two will (probably) also take home Best Picture. It’s worth noting that the preferential ballot used for the top prize — it’s not just “most votes win” but how you’re ranked on each ballot that counts — is complex enough to give a few of the other films a fighting chance.
Let’s work through every category with will wins and should wins shall we?
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Will Win: Nefta Football Club
Should Win: This unusually short (no pun intended) Oscar season means I never got around to watching the shorts. Oops.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Will Win: Hair Love has won the most press. Will that translate to votes? We think so.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Will Win: Though recent history suggests Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) could be a contender and Walk Run Cha-Cha might win because it’s happy (a very unusual and thus attention-grabbing trait in this category), I’m risking the prediction of In the Absence because a) it’s excellent and b) it’s going to be a good year for South Korea at the Oscars and this documentary about a sinking ferry will look right sitting next to Parasite in the history books.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Will Win: American Factory has the lead and is backed by the Obamas, which could definitely help. Two Syrian-centered doc The Cave and For Sama also have ardent fans. So why do I want to go out on a limb and predict Honeyland? I think it’s bcause this documentary about a nomadic beekeper in North Macedonia has already defied all the odds. It was a surprise box office hit despite its ultra niche subject matter and it’s the first film to ever be double-nominated in both the Documentary and International Feature categories. All that and it’d make a deserving winner, too!
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Will Win: With its surprise BAFTA win most pundits are now predicting the Santa Claus origin story Netflix film Klaus to take the gold here. But this race is very tight. Laika’s delightful adventure comedy Missing Link took the Globe but its box office failure could haunt it. France’s surreal I Lost My Body is widely admired but would make for a very unusual winner. The fire has gone out of the How to Train Your Dragon series so that finale is just lucky to be nominated. Still, with no clear frontrunner we suspect the Oscars will default to Pixar (which has won 50% of these trophies) even if only by a small margin and crown Toy Story 4.
Should Win: Missing Link voter here. It’s beyond ridiculous that the company that made Boxtrolls, Coraline, Kubo, and ParaNorman still doesn’t have a win in this category.
SOUND MIXING & SOUND EDITING
Will Win: These will soon become one category because the average voter hasn’t learned the difference between them despite decades of opportunity to do so. (Mixing is all sound elements combined and how the levels work with each other while Editing is the effects and the creation of the sounds) Given the nearly identical nominations each year it appears that the sound branch doesn’t know the difference either. So we think 1917 will win both (unless Ford V Ferrari surges at the finish line) because it’s well liked in general and a war film.
Should Win: We’d be an Ad Astra voter in Sound Mixing but that’s the Brad Pitt sci-fi drama’s sole nomination so it’s never going to happen.
Will Win: Joker‘s gifted Icelandic composer Hilda Gudnadottir probably has this one locked up after winning plentiful precursor awards. Her nearest rival is surely…
Should Win: Thomas Newman for his 1917 score. He’s never won despite 14 nominations.
Will/Should Win: Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” has the only ‘narrative’ campaign hook (a classic songwriting duo finally winning awards jointly) and they’ve campaigned hard for it so in a very weak field (seriously these nominations… sigh) it feels like an easy win. The only possible spoiler is “Stand Up” from Harriet and if it thwarts Elton’s Oscar desires, Cynthia Erivo completes her EGOT.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
Will Win: Parasite has this all locked up both because it’s a masterpiece that’s also a box office smash ($164 million globally already) and due to the small matter of its plentiful other Oscar nominations.
Should Win: Pain and Glory would make a great winner in most years but, apologies to my favourite living filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, everyone knows that Bong Joon Ho and Parasite have fully earned this honor.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR
Will Win: This is a tougher call than it looks. Bombshell has a huge advantage due to the explicit obviousness of its triumph in transforming Charlize Theron so uncannily into Megyn Kelly. But here’s the problem. It’s not up for Best Picture and that definitely gives Joker a spoiler advantage.
Should Win: Bombshell
Will Win: This is a tough call since 1917 and The Irishman are the Best Picture nominees represented but both have “supporting” visual effects and the prize almost always goes to “leading” visual effects if you know what I mean. If voters want “most” effects they might choose The Lion King. But I think 1917 is going to win from sheer love of the film plus the challenge of the one-take looking illusion.
Should Win: Avengers Endgame, a case of “Most” happily also being “Best” but voters don’t seem to like Marvel Cinematic Universe movies very much.
Will Win: A tough call. Other pundits have gotten my hopes up that Parasite will triumph in this category because its editing is pure genius, there’s not a wasted moment or cut in that whole masterpiece. Bu I fear that this is where Ford V Ferrari revs up on the race track and wins by a hair.
Should Win: Parasite quite obviously.
Will Win: Quentin Tarantino’s …Hollywood, a delicious meandering ode to showbiz and actors in crisis initially seemed to be a threat to actually win Best Picture. Now that that dream feels more distant we suspect the love for the movie will coalesce around this category because what a stunning job it does recreating Hollywood in 1969! The movie looks like it used every penny of its budget.
Should Win: We’d be rooting hard for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood if it wasn’t up against the genius architecture of Parasite, where a whole neighborhood was built in a water tank for the flood sequence and the movie’s central location, a very wealthy family’s house, is so perfectly designed that it both reflects the movies themes and becomes a character in and of itself given how the plot unfolds.
Will Win: Voters often get lazy in this particular category and if they do Little Women will take this with ease. It’s beautiful work so it won’t be a bad winner but it’s exactly the kind of thing they often go for since it fits so neatly into the ‘period drama / most costumes’ side of the nominee pool. But if there’s a dark horse spoiler watch out for Jojo Rabbit since the clothes get plot moments with which to shine (we’re looking at you, Scarlett Johansson’s shoes)
Should Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘s ultra cool but also character savvy duds
Will Win: Jojo Rabbit hasn’t been all that popular with general moviegoers — it’s the least successful of the nominees at the box office — but the industry obviously loves it. We think Taiki Waitit wins his first Oscar here.
Should Win: We’re already crying for Greta Gerwig because her deconstruction of Little Women is so pure with love of the source material while also totally dismantling it.
Will Win / Should Win: Quentin Tarantino’s latest might deliver him a third Oscar in this category but we suspect this is the place voters admit to themselves that Parasite really is ‘The Best Picture of the Year’ (even if they don’t actually vote for it in Best Picture… but more on that in a minute.)
Will Win: Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Because it’s time. And also he is the epitome of casual cool in this wonderful movie.
Should Win: You thought I was going to say Brad Pitt didn’t you? I would but see, I adamantly don’t approve of voting for leading actors in “supporting” categories and he gets one whole huge section of the film to himself — he’s as much a lead as Leonardo DiCaprio, so Joe Pesci in The Irishman it is.
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix is all locked up as Joker.
Should Win: That’s a toss-up between the melancholy depth of Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory (his all time best work) and the raw wound crisis of Adam Driver in Marriage Story (also his all time best work). Both actors are deeply inside these parts and it’s a pity that we have to do the Joker again. Heath Ledger already won an Oscar for that, and with a superior performance!
SUPPORTING ACTRESS and LEAD ACTRESS
Will Win: Laura Dern has Supporting Actress locked up for her entertaining Marriage Story hard bargain divorce lawyer.
Will Win: Renee Zellweger had Lead actress locked up as Judy Garland in Judy.
Or do they?
Suprisingly we think double nominee Scarlett Johansson is running in second place in both categories for Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story respectively. If there’s a major surprise within the four acting categories (where the winners all feel pre-ordained) its going to be in one of these two places since Brad Pitt and Joaquin Phoenix are 100% safe given that they’ve never won and people happen to looooove both their movies and their characters. Dern has the small vulnerability of playing an ‘unlikeable’ character with relatively short screen time and Renée has the (small) vulnerability of having already won an Oscar with a career that doesn’t feel like it exactly merits two. If one of them stumbles at the last second we expect to hear Scarlett Johansson’s name read out.
Oh… and Should Win: Florence Pugh in Little Women and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story
Will Win: Sam Mendes for 1917 because Oscar loves a technical challenge in this category and not only did he meet the one he set for himself but his ‘one shot’ war film became a major hit with the public while voting was happening.
Should Win: Bong Joon Ho for Parasite because he makes not a single false move with a complex script, heady themes, tonal mix, and a brilliantly cohesive ensemble performance.
Will Win: Parasite just might become the first non-English language film to ever win Best Picture. That would be an awesome bit of history-making. Either Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Jojo Rabbit could prove a darkhorse surprise if they’re ranked highly enough on each ballot (preferential voting is complicated!). But we think history will repeat itself and another technically impressive World War I film will win the Oscar just as one did in the very first Oscar race when silent epic Wings (1927) triumphed. We’re guessing 1917 takes the top prize because even people who don’t love it admire it. The same might be said for Parasite but surely there are some in the industry who would balk at handing Hollywood’s top honor to another country’s cinema. (and, no, the UK doesn’t count as ‘another country’ when it comes to “Hollywood” despite the ocean between us).
Should Win: By now you’ve realized I’m 100% a Parasite partisan. Parasite or bust. (Marriage Story and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would also make deserving winners.
Will you be watching the Oscars with friends? Did you gamble on an office pool?