Ah, the Oscars: Is there another annual entertainment tradition that's so antiquated and yet somehow still so important? The ceremony is a relic of the past, dreamt up 92 years ago by studio magnate Louis B. Mayer as a way of placating fussy actors, and it's obviously still working.
And yet the storm clouds hanging over this year's awards are the same as they ever were: The acting nominees are unusually white, no women are up for best director, and the Academy apparently only sees 15 movies and then just nominates them over and over again in every category. 2019 was a terrific, exciting year for movies, but the Oscar nominees don't totally reflect that.
Movie fans tune in every year, however, for better or worse. Seth Sommerfeld and I are two of them, and we're digging into 2020's nominees and picking our favorites, grousing about some of the choices and predicting who will take home those little gold men.
— NATHAN WEINBENDER
- Ford v Ferrari
- The Irishman
- Jojo Rabbit
- Little Women
- Marriage Story
- Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
WHAT SHOULD WIN
NW: My two favorites here are The Irishman and Parasite, which couldn't be more different: One's a tightly wound, viciously comic thriller from South Korea, the other a sprawling, melancholy American epic. But I'm rooting for Parasite to win: It would be the first non-English language film to ever win best picture, and its victory could ideally usher more foreign films into mainstream U.S. theaters.
SS: While Parasite has more to say, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood was my favorite film of the year. It's just a constant barrage of fun, memorable and kinetic scenes — from the tension on Spahn Ranch to the purity of Sharon Tate watching herself on the big screen — executed with pinpoint acting and masterful directing.
WHAT WILL WIN
NW: There's no obvious frontrunner here, but I actually think Parasite has a shot. A few things are working in its favor: The Screen Actors Guild awarded the film's ensemble cast a couple weeks ago (and a lot of actors vote within the Academy), everyone who's seen it seems to love it, and the ranked voting system on best picture ballots could help it out. But why overthink things? They'll probably go for 1917, a well-made, recently released war film that will likely take home best director, as well.
SS: I'm hoping the Academy realizes they could just bypass 1917 by giving Sam Mendes best director and give the big one to Parasite, a movie that actually has something relevant to say about our economic and class structure.
- Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
- Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
- Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
- Charlize Theron, Bombshell
- Renée Zellweger, Judy
WHO SHOULD WIN
NW: I'm bummed (though not surprised) that my favorite performance of the year — Elisabeth Moss as a troubled rock star in Her Smell — was shut out. But of the five the Academy chose, my favorite is Scarlett Johansson, who has never been better than she is in Marriage Story.
SS: Little Women truly sings because of Saoirse Ronan's ability to capture Jo March's range of gleeful innocence, familial love, crushing sorrow and societal defiance in a seemingly effortless and natural way.
WHO WILL WIN
NW: It seems like Renée Zellweger is the favorite here, and her uncanny approximation of Judy Garland was one of the triumphant comebacks of 2019. But I wonder if we have another Glenn Close scenario on our hands: Remember how she was the odds-on favorite to win last year for the little-seen drama The Wife, but the Oscar went to Olivia Colman in The Favourite instead? Did enough people see and enjoy Judy to reward it for anything? Don't be surprised if Erivo, Johansson or Ronan steal this one.
SS: It seems like Renée Zellweger is the safe bet despite the fact that none of us know more than two or three people who saw Judy.
- Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
- Adam Driver, Marriage Story
- Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
- Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
WHO SHOULD WIN
NW: Pedro Almodóvar is one of the greatest living filmmakers, but rarely are the performances in his movies singled out by the Academy. At least they were smart enough to recognize the greatness of Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory: He's wounded, ruminative and wistful, and he communicates so much of that with just his eyes.
SS: I'll watch Leonardo DiCaprio in all his dynamic stuttering, buzzed, has-been majesty as Rick Dalton a thousand times before I ever watch The Revenant (the film that actually won him his Oscar) again.
WHO WILL WIN
NW: Probably Joaquin Phoenix, which would make him the second actor to win an Oscar for playing the Joker (Heath Ledger, of course, being the first). I'm not as big a fan of Joker as the Academy, but Phoenix's performance is easily the best thing about the film.
SS: Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of a mentally troubled, rage-filled killer who has been pushed to the edge by a dark and twisted society. I'm referring to last year's You Were Never Really Here, but the Academy didn't even nominate him for that. So he'll get one for this second-best portrayal of the Joker instead.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
- Laura Dern, Marriage Story
- Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
- Florence Pugh, Little Women
- Margot Robbie, Bombshell
WHO SHOULD WIN
NW: Florence Pugh had a great 2019, showing off her range in films as disparate as the underdog sports comedy Fighting with My Family and the blood-soaked nightmare Midsommar. It was her take on Amy in Greta Gerwig's Little Women that was most impressive, bringing new dimensions to a character we thought we knew already.
SS: Florence Pugh by default, because Little Women deserves more wins than it will get. Also, the actual best supporting performance of the year wasn't even nominated — justice for The Farewell's Zhao Shuzhen! And Robbie should've been up for Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood over Bombshell.
WHO WILL WIN
NW: Laura Dern has won pretty much every other acting award in the last few months, and she'll take the Oscar, too. She's only on screen for about 15 minutes in Marriage Story, but she makes an impression.
SS: While I personally find Laura Dern in Marriage Story to be the single worst nominated performance of the year — it all reads so unreal to me — she's going to win.
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 SHOULD WIN
NW: It was great to see Joe Pesci back on the screen after a decadelong absence, and in a role that was so antithetical to his work in earlier Martin Scorsese classics like GoodFellas and Casino. Pesci's character in The Irishman is menacing in his silence, a diminutive man who nonetheless seemed to tower over everyone else.
SS: For all intents and purposes, Brad Pitt is the co-lead of Once Upon a Time..., and he manages to outshine DiCaprio with his roguish charm. It's the most "let's let Brad Pitt be a movie star" role ever, and he completely nails it.
WHO WILL WIN
NW: This is the year of Brad Pitt, and he's the only nominee in this category to not have an Oscar already. His win is the surest bet of the night.
SS: There's a better chance of someone mistaking me for Brad Pitt than him losing. ♦
WHAT YOUR 2020 OSCAR FAVORITE SAYS ABOUT YOU
Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
You honestly just want to be best friends with Leo and Brad Pitt (be it their characters in the movie or in real life).
You think people who don't like Joker are just "triggered," but you didn't see Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here (and have only maybe seen Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy).
Congrats, reading subtitles doesn't scare you! When people asked you what Parasite was about, you said, "Just see it — trust me."
You think the state of world affairs is so dire that you find anything that dares to say, "Nazis are bad," to be "brave," "vital," and "courageous" (but you didn't get around to watching A Hidden Life).
You're a film buff who likes how this film fits into the closing arc of Scorsese's, De Niro's, Pacino's and Pesci's careers so much that you don't mind it being an hour too long. Or you're the same age as them and your granddaughter let you use her Netflix login.
Ford v. Ferrari
You're a dad. You like to tinker. You like movie stars being movie stars, but thought Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood was too weird.
You have this crazy thought that all movies shouldn't be about angry rich white dudes (unless they are merely a supporting character played by Timothée Chalamet because... swoon). Also, you can pronounce "Saoirse."
You're a child of divorce who thinks the best acting performances are the ones with the most crying and yelling. You've never seen The Squid and the Whale.
You love the single-take aesthetic, but thought Birdman was "too complicated." The only times you cry are at war movies and funerals (and you still try to make sure nobody sees your tears).
— SETH SOMMERFELD