2020 Oscars Preview

 Will 1917 sprint towards glory, or can an insurgent Parasite pull a Moonlight? Our unqualified pundits debate.

Last year, Chase and Sean won ugly with 16 out of 24. We can do better.

BEST PICTURE
Ford vs. Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite

DAVID: So there are going to be a lot of categories we’re discussing here that aren’t even a little bit in doubt. That’s mildly annoying, and could make for a disappointing show, but there’s still an exciting race at the top of the ticket. 1917 has won the majority of precursors — including the holy trinity of Golden Globe, DGA, and PGA, and no one will be surprised if it becomes the first war film since 2009’s The Hurt Locker to win Best Picture. I won’t even be bothered — it’s an astonishing technical achievement that I loved quite a bit, more than most. But it’s not Parasite, and though I talked myself last year into Roma beating Green Book and got horrifically burned, I’m ready to do it again. Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece has wins from the Actors, Writers, and Editors Guilds. Everyone who has seen it loves it. Bong is the most popular guy in any room right now. I think it stands to benefit from the preferential ballot, like Moonlight. The question is, will enough voters have overcome their fear of subtitles to give it what it deserves? If the film fails to pull off the upset on Sunday, that’s why. But I’m picking it anyway.

TYLER: I feel like the fact that we’re even mentioning Parasite in the shortlist conversation, after all of the early season bluster about Hollywood and The Irishman, is fantastic. I think there’s a little intricacy in the “subtitles” debate; Hollywood’s jingoistic stubborn attitude in saying “well, Parasite is going to win International Film, so why does it need both?” is frustrating for obvious reasons. I’ve argued for years the International Film Oscar rules must be changed to reflect the prevalence, excellence and stature of world cinema in this content moment. But I doubt that will happen. Parasite is by far the best movie of this group, challenged only lightly by Little Women. I fear, however, that anti-thriller bias, anti-subtitle bias, and misplaced feelings around the International award give this to 1917. Great, I’m already grumpy.

CHASE: I agree that Parasite is the best film, but there’s no reason to believe it can win. There’s so much chalk in what’s become one of the more boring awards seasons anyone can remember. There’s no reason to believe that anything other than 1917 is going to win aside from blind hope. The preferential ballot doesn’t give us the best film of the year. It gives us the best liked, and that’s depressing as hell. Best Picture should be about passion, even if that passion is a smaller plurality of vote-getters. The hope is that “best liked” saves us from the colossal abomination that Joker winning would be. So as much as I don’t love 1917 I guess I’m happy to pick a mediocre film and move on like we already do anyway.

SEAN: 2019 (much like 1999) will be remembered as one of the great years for film. There are three absolute masterpieces nominated for Best Picture: The Irishman, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, and Parasite. All three of them are going to lose to 1917‘s  empty technical showmanship. It is what it is. And here’s a list of  other fantastic films that are better than 1917 that didn’t get nominated for Best Picture: Dolemite is My Name, The Farewell, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Knives Out, Pain and Glory, Rocketman, Uncut Gems and many many others. 

Joker

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonard DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

DAVID: The actor categories are going to be boring to talk about, as the same four names have dominated the Globes, SAGs, BAFTAs, and everything in between. That begins with Joaquin Phoenix, whose dialed-to-eleven performance in Joker is far from his most interesting work, and is now poised to snatch what should by all rights belong to Adam Driver. Oh well. I enjoyed all of the other performances here too, especially DiCaprio and Pryce. I’m not sure who you take out to make room for, say, Adam Sandler or Christian Bale.

TYLER: Joaquin is fine, and is the only person doing anything remotely interesting in that Scorsese cover movie. He will win. But gosh I would excise Pryce (a frustratingly simplistic portrait from an actor and director that doesn’t often turn them in) and Leo (I didn’t like it?) for Sandler and Eddie Murphy. But really, Sandler, Murphy, Driver, Banderas, Pryce and DiCaprio are all doing better work than Phoenix here, so it’s a shame we’re going to award a man learning to laugh in a weird way and hunch.

CHASE: Nobody has won the Best Actor Oscar without winning the Golden Globe since Sean Penn upset Mickey Rourke over a decade ago, and since Taron Egerton isn’t competing here the Oscar is solidly Phoenix’s. It’s a typical example of an actor winning for a maximalist performance that isn’t his best work, but that’s how the Oscars do it. It’s also depressing that the Joker is now an Oscar-bait role. To imagine that two actors have won for playing a comic book villain and no one ever has ever been nominated for playing, say, Martin Luther King kinda says it all.

SEAN: Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Robert DeNiro, Taron Egerton all gave some of the best performances of the year and of their careers and they were ALL passed over here. Put simply, the race for Best Actor was a bloodbath this year and there were just too many great performances. The actors who made it in are mostly worthy, but one thing was consistent all year: as soon as Phoenix‘s performance in Joker premiered it was destined to win the Oscar. Part of that is because he’s overdue, part of it is the role, and part of it is what no one else here will say — it’s brilliant and memorable work. You may not like the film, but you will never forget what Phoenix does in it. Has he had better performances? Sure, his performance in The Master remains a benchmark, but he deserves this and I can’t wait to see him get his Oscar. 

Judy

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renee Zellweger, Judy

DAVID: Saoirse Ronan has my vote, but unless Renee Zellweger pulls a Glenn Close… there’s no point in discussing it, is there?

TYLER: There are nearly a dozen performances that didn’t get nominated for this award that I would’ve preferred over anyone actually nominated (except Ronan, who is fantastic). Awkwafina, obviously. Lupita Nyong’o for Us, Julianne Moore for Gloria Bell, Mary Kay Place for Diane. I would also ride hard for Florence Pugh in Midsommar, as that is perhaps one of the most raw, visceral performances of grieving that I’ve seen in many years. Holding my nose, though, Renee wins for learning to mimic a singing voice.

CHASE: When did we decide Renee Zellweger was winning this award with no competition? You can look at the other three acting wins as accomplishments for actors that are “due,” but Renee already has an Oscar. Furthermore, I kind of hate this performance. I guess Hollywood is making up for treating Renee poorly for a couple years, but I can’t imagine this one ages well. 

SEAN: It’s a little absurd that we feel the need to reward Zellweger again and I’m particularly tired of the Academy not being able to look beyond mimicry. Original characters also require tremendous skill and dedication, but I won’t begrudge Zellweger her win too much when the category is this weak. Her biggest competition is Theron who is also doing her own mimicry shtick. Lupita Nyong’o was robbed.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
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

DAVID: This category could have been less predictable if The Irishman hadn’t completely fallen off the awards season map. There’s no stopping Brad Pitt, who would also be receiving more of a career award and has given the funniest speeches of the circuit. I’m mostly just happy Hanks finally got his first nomination since Cast Away.

TYLER: This is the place I was convinced we would get a courtesy Parasite nom, as Kang-ho Song is the most awardable of that otherwise entirely perfect ensemble cast. Oddly, I think Jonathan Pryce should’ve been nominated here for Don Quixote. Both Robert Pattison and Willem Dafoe should be here for The Lighthouse. Also in a better world, Asier Etxeandia for his turn in Pain and Glory would get recognized, if only for the monologue halfway through. But I really am happy for Pitt, who gets a win in a walk and deserves it. He is the best part of that movie, and keeps it from falling completely off the rails in its otherwise stupefyingly boring second act.

CHASE: While I’m happy to see Pitt win this award, my heart goes with Pesci, who gives a career-redefining performance in The Irishman. Still, Pitt is due as well as great, and everyone else in this category already has an Oscar.

SEAN: Pitt is fantastic in Hollywood and it’s about damn time that he is recognized. Cliff Booth will join the ranks of Tarantino’s most unforgettable characters, but it’s a real shame that it couldn’t have been another year. Joe Pesci’s turn in The Irishman is a complete 180 from any other collaboration with Scorsese and it could very well be his finest performance. There’s also a sense that we will never see him or any of these men be this good on screen together again. It would have made for a tremendous Oscar moment and a fitting way to honor The Irishman‘s sure to be long-lasting legacy. 

Marriage Story

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

DAVID: I’m slightly baffled by Johansson’s double nomination, but Jojo Rabbit has shown unexpected strength in recent days and this is probably(?) the most up for grabs of the four. I love Laura Dern, but I’d rather imagine her award going for her performance in Little Women — or, better yet, give it to her co-star Florence Pugh.

TYLER: I mean. JLo, amirite? But no really, I’m going to go rogue because I’m getting grumpy thinking about how this is actually going to happen and say Pugh pulls a well-deserved upset for a performance that, as the Blank Check boys pointed out, is really the lead if you don’t count the Jo-publisher preamble. Plus, she’s the best Amy put to film yet.

CHASE: Chalk, chalk, chalk. Dern is going to win for a role that’s mostly on the page, but I still can’t believe Jennifer Lopez got snubbed here. Do I think she gave the best performance of the year? I don’t, but I certainly think she gave one of the top five. As much as I like Kathy Bates she shouldn’t be here. I’d also swap Johansson for Cho Yeo-jeong for her hilarious work in Parasite. This is all just evidence for my favorite soapbox theory: awards bodies don’t put the effort into selecting nominees anymore. They just lazily rubber stamp the awards of previous groups. That’s why these four have won everything this year.

SEAN: Dern‘s win is going to be so lackluster, but it’s a career win and this category is honestly a snooze outside of Pugh. It’s been a long time since a newcomer has been able to come in and dominate this category though, so I’m not anticipating any surprises. 

1917

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

DAVID: Like Best Picture, it’s either Mendes or Bong. It could easily go the other way, but I’m guessing that Mendes’s Herculean work in the planning and execution of 1917 will carry the day. I can’t imagine how it feels to be Martin Scorcese and share all of these panels and photo shoots with Phillips.

TYLER: I can’t imagine how anyone feels to be sharing a room with Todd Phillips and having people view him as an equal. I would like to believe that the Academy is going to split the Director-Picture nominations here, like they did last year. But their steadfast erasure of the type of subtle, masterwork directing that Bong is doing here is too damning to ignore. If they appreciated it more, Greta Gerwig would be in here also. I’m on record in saying I think Sam Mendes is hacky, and that 1917 is bad. But it is undoubtedly a technical achievement (if only that) that the Academy seems loathe to leave hardware-less. So, Mendes.

CHASE: I was asking a friend the other day if Mendes will be the worst director to have won this award twice. I don’t think so (I hate Oliver Stone too much to say its Mendes), but he’s certainly among the most forgettable. I’m not down for awarding someone because their work seems hard for a film that moves me as little as 1917 does. He’s winning for doing a trick Iñárritu already did this decade, and one that makes 1917 a worse film! Bong should win and Gerwig should be here, but the Oscars won’t give us nice things.

SEAN: If Quentin Tarantino can’t win for a movie celebrating his own industry than he likely never will. It’s pretty embarrassing that Sam Mendes will have two directing Oscars while Tarantino has none and Scorsese only has one. They both released masterpieces this year that will be talked about for decades to come. 1917 will only be remembered for its one-shot gimmick (which was already accomplished and awarded this decade with Birdman) and will otherwise fade from memory like so many other war films that have won Best Director for technical accomplishment alone. 

Jojo Rabbit

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

DAVID: It’s dangerous to bet against Taika Waititi and Jojo Rabbit, which just won at the WGAs and BAFTAs. But as I don’t love the film (though I do love Taika), I’m really, really hoping that Greta Gerwig gets her first Oscar for her immaculate Little Women screenplay… if enough men actually got around to watching it.

TYLER: Again, I think we’re looking at whether to award a script that is obviously show-y (Taika creating a “farce” out of a very dour, serious book) or a script that masterfully, subtly updates a classic tale for a modern audience (Gerwig). And were only a select group of people voting, I would say that one of those two would win. But I have the most dreaded suspicion that Joker is going to get the nod here. If this show plays out this way I believe I may become quite sad.

CHASE: It’s painful that Greta isn’t going to win this award. It’s her adaptation that really makes Little Women sing by reworking the plot to make romance and career accomplishment equals at the film’s climax, and that assumes you aren’t even reading Jo as gay. Jojo Rabbit‘s subtitle is doing half the work for it. “An anti-hate satire?” Jojo Rabbit isn’t satirizing anything. The Great Dictator did this 80 years ago and did it better.

SEAN: How anyone except Steve Zaillian is winning for his masterful gangster opus The Irishman is baffling. Especially if it turns out to be JoJo Rabbit which is confused, pedestrian, and lacking in any meaningful satire or coherent message. The Irishman is likely to walk away empty-handed come Oscar night and that’s a tragedy. 

Knives Out

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

DAVID: This one feels like a coin toss. Does Quentin Tarantino collect his third Oscar for Hollywood, or does a win for Parasite signal a huge night for the Korean thriller? Right now I’m leaning toward the former, but I’ll be going back and forth all weekend. Also: Hurrah for Rian Johnson and Knives Out!

TYLER: I think, if my world plays out the way I think it will (i.e. jingoistic Academy voters slighting Parasite simply because it’s foreign and already has hardware), I could see this being a consolation prize for being beaten out by Mendes for higher honors. So I’m picking Parasite.

CHASE: I think this is an easy way to put an Oscar in Bong Joon-ho’s hand (remember: the country, not the director, wins for foreign film), and Quentin’s already got two of these. Parasite also happens to be the best screenplay of the year. 

SEAN: I adore Once Upon a Time…, but I think it is much more an achievement in direction than writing and it’s missing some of those signature firecracker monologues. Plus Tarantino already has two of these. Parasite‘s script is laser-focused and since it will likely lose Best Picture, this will be its consolation prize.

Toy Story 4

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

DAVID: It’s still wild that Frozen II got snubbed here, but I think Disney wins anyway with Toy Story 4. The indie choice is Netflix’s I Lost My Body, but I think it’s too strange for the Academy at large.

TYLER: I Lost My Body was a lovely movie but agree, it’s not a winner here. None of these nominations really wowed me at all (unless you assume that the carnival in Toy Story 4 is the afterlife, in which case I suppose it’s an interesting movie). It’s a shame to not see Night Is Short, Walk on Girl or Ruben Brandt, Collector here, as both push traditional animation boundaries in really interesting ways. But the Academy hates foreign movies, and hates anime. So, blah, Toy Story 4.

CHASE: Toy Story 4 hasn’t really had any momentum this season, so I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Klaus, which won the BAFTA and cleaned up at the Annie Awards. I need at least one limb to step out on, right?

SEAN: I think the Academy may finally be sick of awarding Pixar and Disney films every year, which gives an opening to either Klaus or Missing Link. Considering I’m now a Portlander, I’d love to see Laika finally take this one home. 

American Factory

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

DAVID: The safest bet here is the Obama-produced American Factory. Dark horse: Honeyland, which also represents Macedonia in the next category. And I’m still mad about the Apollo 11 snub.

TYLER: I cannot believe Amazing Grace was not nominated in this category. I will go to bat and say Apollo 11 is a great work of archivism, not a great movie. All of the movies here are pretty good. Honeyland, especially, is a fantastic movie about a culture that can’t seem to exist, yet does. But the Academy presumably still has the hots for the Obamas, so American Factory, in all its unbalanced glory.

CHASE: The only question here is if the Obamas will attend the ceremony. American Factory is the winner.

SEAN: American Factory will make a worthy winner, but I really wish that Biggest Little Farm could have made it in here. 

Parasite

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Misérables
Pain and Glory
Parasite

DAVID: Parasite in a walk, but don’t lose sight of how strong this category is overall. And that’s without Portrait of a Lady on Fire!

TYLER: The category is always strong, even without considering Monos, Woman At War, Black Mother, First Love, The Proposal or Three Faces (which surely would have been nominated if Iran’s government wasn’t so aggressively trying to silence Jafar Panahi). Still, will be great to see Bong get at least one piece of hardware for Parasite.

CHASE: Remember, Tyler! Bong won’t get the hardware. South Korea does. It kills me that Portrait of a Lady on Fire didn’t even get selected as the film to represent France, much less get nominated. I think it’s one of the best films of the year, period. Almodovar has won here before, and Pain and Glory isn’t one of his best films IMO. Did you know that this is the first time any South Korean film has even been nominated in this category? That’s absurd. If Parasite somehow doesn’t win here we can all pack it in and go home for the rest of the night.

SEAN: It’s a great category, but there is no way anything other than Parasite is winning this. 

On Page 2: The Rest

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