Oscars 2020: who should win and who will win


The mighty Oscars machine is rolling into town once more. Who will win? Who should win? Critic Sarah Ward surveys the field.

The arts and sport have long been pitched as opposites. But, when awards season rolls around in the film world, the two inescapably combine. Suddenly, cinema becomes a contest. Movies and the talents behind them all compete against each other for glory, with nabbing an Academy Award considered the pinnacle of achievement each and every year.

That’s been the case for 92 years now – and with the latest batch of Oscar nominees newly anointed, and the 2020 ceremony nearing, it’s time to ponder the contenders. Will Joker convert its 11 nominations into a swag of shiny statuettes? Will Parasite continue to make history, after becoming the first South Korean feature to even nab a nod?

Critic Sarah Ward surveys the major fields, picking both who should and who’s likely to win.

Best Picture

Nominees:

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

The Oscar should go to…

Parasite. Deja vu strikes the best picture category – which, for the second year running, is on the cusp of making history. If Bong Joon-ho’s deliciously twisty and smartly savage Parasite receives the Oscars’ top gong, it’ll be the first time the award has been given to a movie in a language other than English. As the best film of 2019, hands-down, Parasite deserves to achieve what Roma couldn’t last year.

The Oscar will go to…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. A Tarantino-directed film has never won Best Picture, and the director’s most mature movie to date is a fitting candidate to do so.

Best Director

Nominees:

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

The Oscar should go to…

Bong Joon-ho. This year, the best film of the year also boasts the best filmmaker of the year – and the Academy is nowhere near as shy about awarding non-American directors for their efforts. Bong is at the absolute top of his game with Parasite, which isn’t an easy feat given the wealth of other excellent films (Barking Dogs Never Bite, Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother, Snowpiercer, Okja) on his resume.

The Oscar will go to…

Bong Joon-ho.

Best Actress

Nominees:

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renee Zellweger, Judy
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

The Oscar should go to…

Renee Zellweger. Turning in a performance that captures the spirit, inner steeliness and sorrow of Judy Garland, rather than merely aping her mannerisms, Zellweger is a powerhouse in Judy. She’s also phenomenal when she steps into the star’s shoes on stage, belting out Garland’s hit tunes – an achievement that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Oscar will go to…

Renee Zellweger.

Best Actor

Nominees:

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

The Oscar should go to…

Antonio Banderas. Playing a character clearly based on his director, Banderas pours his heart and soul into this tender Pain and Glory performance – and, despite his plethora of previous collaborations with Pedro Almodovar, it’s the best he’s ever been. There’s such immense weight and sensitivity to his portrayal of a wearied filmmaker taking stock of his career, his choices and regrets, and the inevitable passing of the years.

The Oscar will go to…

Joaquin Phoenix. From its big batch of nominations, Joker won’t go home empty-handed, especially given the always-impressive Phoenix’s mesmerising performance.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

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

The Oscar should go to…

Florence Pugh. Amy March is no one’s favourite  Little Women character. But she’s a source of endless intrigue in Greta Gerwig’s new version – even when she’s at her most petulant, and especially when she’s at her most pragmatic. Pugh’s great performance in the role is just one of her 2019 highlights, after Fighting With My Family and Midsommar, the latter of which also should’ve earned her a nod.

The Oscar will go to…

Laura Dern. Dern is fantastic as a no-nonsense divorce lawyer in Marriage Story, and this award will be as much for that performance as her stellar career.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The Oscar should go to…

Joe Pesci. Nearly ten years since his last film role, more than two decades since his last decent part and exactly 29 years since he won an Oscar for Goodfellas, Pesci’s quietly menacing turn in The Irishman  his fourth collaboration with Martin Scorsese – is so sublime that it steals the star-studded show. And, even in a movie that runs for three-and-a-half hours, it’s a portrayal that one could easily watch more of.

The Oscar will go to…

Brad Pitt. Another show-stealing turn, and another in a film with fierce competition, Pitt’s laidback charm shines in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

1917
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite
Knives Out

The Oscar should go to…

Parasite. This award could go to almost any one of the contenders, and it’d go to a worthy winner. But Parasite’s script, as penned by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, is delicately and intelligently layered to an astonishing degree. It also plays with genre and makes a firm statement, while always remaining unique.

The Oscar will go to…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tarantino has won this category twice, for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained – and should do so for a third time.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Irishman
The Two Popes

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

The Oscar should go to…

Little Women. Adapting a story that has already been brought to the big screen many times before, Greta Gerwig finds a way to make Louisa May Alcott’s story feel fresh – and, through savvy structural tinkering, to cleverly focus her retelling on the March sisters as women, rather than as girls.

The Oscar will go to…

The Irishman. It’s lengthy, obviously, but Steve Zaillian’s script tells this crime tale exactly as it needs to be told.

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

Parasite

The Oscar should go to…

Parasite. Parasite’s merits are many, as we’ve already stressed – and, thanks to Jinmo Yang’s efforts, stitching the various pieces of its narrative together, maintaining suspense and creating a film that flows like the slippery mystery it is ranks among them.

The Oscar will go to…

Ford v Ferrari. The film’s fast-paced racing action should secure this award. It is, after all, impressively edited.

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The Oscar should go to…

The Lighthouse. In another category mostly filled with deserving contenders, The Lighthouse’s cinematography stands out – as, by virtue of its constrained aspect ratio and black-and-white imagery, it’s designed to. Jarin Blaschke should’ve earned a nomination for Robert Eggers first film, The Witch, but has rightfully been recognised for their second feature collaboration.

The Oscar will go to…

1917. The Oscars love the faux one-shot approach – even though 1917 is really a faux two-shot film – and that should prove the case again here.

Best Original Score

Nominees:

Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker

The Oscar should go to…

Little Women. Alexandre Desplat’s score perfectly captures the warm yet probing mood of Gerwig’s Little Women. Interestingly, one of his competitors – 1917’s Thomas Newman – was nominated for scoring Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version of the same story.

The Oscar will go to…

Joker. Just the seventh woman to be nominated in this category, Hildur Guðnadóttir looks poised to become just the third to win.

Best Original Song

Nominees:

I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away, Toy Story 4
(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, Rocketman
I’m Standing With You, Breakthrough
Into the Unknown, Frozen 2
Stand Up, Harriet

The Oscar should go to…

(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, Rocketman. If Rocketman had hit screens prior to Bohemian Rhapsody, perhaps it’d be the music-driven biopic with a healthy haul of nominations of late. It’s certainly the better film by far. Alas, the Elton John-focused film had to settle for just one nod, for (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again – and it should win the singer his second Oscar.

The Oscar will go to…

(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, Rocketman.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

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

The Oscar should go to…

I Lost My Body. It’s refreshing to see this field overlook subpar big box-office blockbusters like Frozen 2 in favour of smaller films with gloriously striking animation and engaging stories, such as Klaus and I Lost My Body. The latter, which also picked up an award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, is also a rare adult-focused contender in the category – and it’s fantastic.

The Oscar will go to…

Toy Story 4. Because this field didn’t exist when Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were released, the franchise has only won the category once. That will most likely change.

Best International Feature Film

Nominees:

Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Les Miserables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea)

The Oscar should go to…

Parasite. Renamed from ‘best foreign-language film’, this category is routinely stacked with excellent features, with even more also sitting among the short-listed and submitted films. Parasite is the clear, overwhelming pick (which is no knock on Pain and Glory) and it still remains noteworthy that France opted to put forward Les Miserables over Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

The Oscar will go to…

Parasite.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

The Oscar should go to…

Honeyland. Following wild beekeepers in the small village of Bekirlija in North Macedonia, Honeyland is a moving and important film – a small documentary that has been deservedly earning vast acclaim. The three-time winner at last year’s Sundance Film Festival also made Oscars history, becoming the first film to earn nominations in both the documentary and foreign-language/international feature categories.

The Oscar will go to…

American Factory. And when it wins, it’ll pick up the first Oscar for Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company.