Could it be? Is it really that time? Are we finally about to leave the awards season behind? This Sunday, February 9th, the 92nd Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Anyone who's been following the many, many ceremonies up to now probably won't be all that surprised with the results, but here's hoping a few curveballs are thrown our way.
There's almost always a difference between what one thinks will win, and what one wants to win. Over the course of this past decade, the eventual Best Picture winner happened to also be my personal favorite (of the nominees) exactly one time: The Shape of Water. I couldn't tell you why, but I have a gut feeling that my favorite of these nominees (Parasite) will also win Best Picture this year, closing out the decade with a fleeting sense of "Yeah, they get it."
Below I've compiled the categories that I feel knowledgeable enough to speak about, opting to give both my realistic guess of who I think will win as well as my own personal opinion on who I want to win.
What I Think Will Win: Parasite
What I Want To Win: Parasite
Parasite, The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and more recently 1917 have all proven over the course of this awards season that they're clearly the frontrunners for the top prize, which is in and of itself noteworthy since most years the race is quickly narrowed down to only two. For awhile I was convinced The Irishman would win, but as the ceremonies kept coming, The Irishman's victories did not. It started to feel like the more people actually saw it, the ratio of those who were crazy about it and those who simply enjoyed it started to even out. Then for a brief moment I believed 1917 would actually be the eventual winner, especially given that it took home the PGA's top prize. I still believe that in many ways it's still the front-frontrunner, but I can't shake this feeling in the air that Parasite, in many ways the underdog and crowd favorite will make history by being the first ever foreign film to win Best Picture. Don't get me wrong, the idea of a foreign film winning Best Picture is cool, but only if the film truly deserves it, and good God almighty does Parasite deserve it. It has all the right things going for it, like it's wildly original story executed with masterful directing, its ensemble cast who are irresistible the whole way through, and the sheer triumph that is its ability to show so many different types of filmgoers first hand what kinds of incredible films are out there if one can just "overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles."
Who I Think Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917
Who I Want To Win: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The feat Sam Mendes and his entire cast crew pulled off in 1917 really can't be overstated, it's nothing short of incredible and I can't be all that disappointed when he walks on stage to claim his golden man. However, nothing would make me happier than to see Quentin Tarantino finally get the Best Director award that he's honestly already won (in my mind) with more of his films than not. And I don't mean this in the legacy sort of way. Sure he's long overdue for one, but I truly believe Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the greatest directorial work of his career. Seeing his beautiful, honest, and moving vision so fully realized on every front and never missing a beat despite its lengthy running time, and then being left with a genuine tear of happiness in my eye upon seeing "The End" may have been the single most inspiring thing I've experienced in years.
Who I Think Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Who I Want To Win: Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix is all but guaranteed his Oscar, and I guess I see why. But, as I've made very clear numerous times on this site, I just have too many issues with Joker the film and Arthur Fleck the character that prevent me from believing this admittedly great performance (with the amateur script accounted for) is the best performance of the year. Adam Driver on the other hand, that's a powerful performance. His unrelenting frustration, heartbreak, love, respect and rage (sometimes all at the same time, somehow) painted one of the most honest portraits of a person experiencing one of the most difficult things one can that I've ever seen. Adam Driver is still at the early point of his career, but has managed to channel more phenomenal performances than many do in their entire lives, so it's comforting to know that there's likely even better performances ahead. I've wasted too many breaths articulating why Joker is undeserving of most of its nominations, so I'll give up and give it this one.
Who I Think Will Win: Renée Zellweger, Judy
Who I Want To Win: Saoirse Ronan/Scarlett Johansson, Little Women/Marriage Story
Perhaps even more of a given than Joaquin Phoenix's win is Renée Zellweger for her performance in Judy. I actually have not seen this movie, so I can't really speak on whether or not I think she deserves it. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she's probably amazing in it. From the performances I have seen though, I find Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story and Saoirse Ronan in Little Women to be near flawless. Johansson is in many way the other half of Marriage Story, considering much of the film is literally structured in half between her and Adam Driver's characters. Everything I said about why Driver deserves the Best Actor Oscar can be said verbatim about Johansson. The alternative perspective she gives to the heartbreaking circumstance is eye-opening and the brutal honesty in her reality makes it clear that there's no such thing as choosing sides because sadly, it just is what it is.
The confidence Saoirse Ronan imbues Jo with is one of the most heartwarming things in this already unbelievably heartwarming movie. She knows who she is and what she wants and does everything she can to join her free-spirit nature with her need to be the glue that holds her family together. The earnestness in everything Jo does is impossible to resist, and as Saoirse runs the gamut of human emotion she nails every scene with the utmost authenticity. Being that Saoirse is only 25, I consider it a privilege to be around at a time where her career, already jam-packed with beautiful performances, is truly starting to take off.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Who I Think Will Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Who I Want To Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
I loved every single thing about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood dearly, but one thing has only become more clear the more I watch it: Brad Pitt is the best part of it. He's 100% going to take home first acting Oscar, and it is in no way just because "it's his time." Cliff Booth is the heart of this movie, so steadfast in his selflessness and so truly at peace with himself and his place in the world that a simple scene of him feeding his dog before sitting down to watch television and eat dinner himself would make even the most coldhearted person alive smile from an aspiration of one day achieving the same. Did he murder his wife? Maybe. But you need to ask yourself, even if he did, does that really make me love this character any less? If you say yes, I won't believe you. Cliff Booth is the greatest character Quentin Tarantino has ever written and Brad Pitt 100% deserves his incoming Oscar.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Who I Think Will Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Who I Want To Win: Florence Pugh, Little Women
The three other acting categories have been pretty much locked since the beginning of the awards circuit, and Best Supporting Actress is no different. Laura Dern's performance as Scarlett Johansson's divorce lawyer has swept awards left and right and it's not hard to see why. The determined, even cold, and at times outright two-faced authority Dern infuses every beat with is one of the central factors of Marriage Story, and watching her dominate everyone save Johansson who dares to enter her domain elicited the same cowering reaction from myself. I was genuinely afraid of her. Florence Pugh on the other hand, was just too magnetic too resist. Her take on the naive and driven Amy was the most nuanced and multi-faceted performance in all of Little Women, which is seriously saying something. Even when Amy is being an entitled little brat, you understand so perfectly where it's coming from that you can't help but smile knowingly, thinking to yourself "Just give her some time, she'll come around." While I personally found Pugh's performance in Midsommar to be even more commanding, I can't deny that I want her to get some sort of recognition for what has been one hell of a breakout year.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Who I Think Will Win: Taika Waititi/Greta Gerwig, Jojo Rabbit/Little Women
Who I Want To Win: Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Next to the Best Picture, the screenplay categories are easily the most difficult for me to try and call. Early on it seemed like Steve Zaillian was unbeatable for his work on The Irishman, but as the ceremonies went on and we got to the Guild Awards, more and more love started going to Greta Gerwig and Taika Waititi. Either one of these two would make me happy, but if I had to choose which one I personally believe to be "better," it would be Greta Gerwig's experimental, non-linear approach to adapting one of the most adapted sources in film history. The fact that she was able to make her version of the timeless story stand out as much as it did while somehow both upending and preserving the essence of it was an achievement I almost couldn't believe. Between the perfectly paced scenes and the way she gave every character the exact amount of screentime and personal moments needed, this was a movie whose screenplay was easily one of its strongest attributes. I definitely love the story of Jojo Rabbit, but if I really think about it, I think I enjoy the direction more than the screenplay. With a script that has as many blatant jokes as this one, some are bound to fall flat, and it's a testament to the strength of the script that so few do, but some still do nonetheless. To put it bluntly, I find Little Women's direction and screenplay working in perfect harmony whereas I find Jojo Rabbit's direction slightly having to do a little more work.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Who I Think Will Win: Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, Parasite
Who I Want To Win: Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won/Quentin Tarantino, Parasite/Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
With the WGA win and the universal praise from critics and audiences, the screenplay for Parasite has the highest chances to win the Oscar, and I will be in full support if it does. The way it navigates its extreme tonal changes, builds suspense, diffuses tension with pure hilarity, and keeps the unforeseeable twists coming is easily the most impressive script of the year. But I would be lying if I said it was the one I truly wanted to win. To me, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's screenplay, in all its hangout-style, meandering, day-in-the-life charm, transported me into the world of the film and I would have stayed there hanging out with Cliff and Rick forever if it was possible. Much of my love for this script comes from the meta-aspect of Tarantino's writing career, specifically the heart-on-his-sleeve sentiment that he has never attempted at this scale before. In every line, every beat, and every scene, the love and sincerity is palpable. For so long Tarantino's screenplays have focused primarily on the cool factor, serving as love letters to his favorite films. With Hollywood, he's writing a love letter to cinema itself, the very thing responsible for the person he is and for the love and joy of so many cinephiles around the world.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
What I Think Will Win: Toy Story 4
What I Want To Win: Toy Story 4
With a few exceptions, Pixar is practically guaranteed this award any year they release a movie, but I don't think that's the only reason why Toy Story 4 will win. From the moment it was announced, it was met with a huge amount of skepticism and even dismissal, for good reason. Toy Story 3 was seen by many (myself included at the time) as the perfect send off for a near-perfect trilogy, so why do we need another one? Everything is remade/rebooted/sequelized/prequelized/reimagined/spun-off in this day and age, and now our precious Toy Story is falling in line? But when Toy Story 4 came out and critics and audiences actually saw it for ourselves, we realized how presumptuous we were being. This is a sequel that justifies its existence within the first five minutes and only proves itself more vital from there. I can only imagine how many Academy members resonated with the film's existential, empty-nester theme, and the closure and catharsis the film brings in the end is enough to make even the most Tough Guy cry.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
What I Think Will Win: Parasite
What I Want To Win: Parasite
There's maybe a .13% chance Pain and Glory wins this award, but just like last year's Roma, this is Parasite's award to lose. Since I haven't seen the other nominees, I want Parasite to win.
Who I Think Will Win: Roger Deakins, 1917
Who I Want To Win: Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse
As amazing as the cinematography in Blade Runner 2049 was, many saw it as a legacy win for Deakins, who had previously received 15 nominations in the category. Now that he's broken the losing streak and put out what is easily one of the greatest works of his untouchable career, my guess is that he's taking that statue home on Sunday. For me personally, Jarin Blaschke's work on The Lighthouse was not only the most unique and striking work of 2019, but it also complimented the themes and psychology of the characters the best. The claustrophobic near-square aspect ratio combined with the grainy black and white 35mm quickly establishes a surreal, soon nightmare-like trance that gripped me and didn't let go until Robert Pattinson's getting his intestines pulled out by seagulls.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Who I Think Will Win: Hildur Gu∂nadóttir, Joker
Who I Want To Win: Hildur Gu∂nadóttir/Thomas Newman, Joker/1917
For as much crap as I've given Joker, I can not deny the power and impact of Hildur Gu∂nadóttir's score. It's beyond haunting, but also incredibly memorable, easily the most memorable of the nominees, I just wish everything else in that movie was even close to its level. The other standout for me is Thomas Newman's work in 1917, specifically the final charge to reach Colonel Mackenzie in time. The swells and driving arpeggios literally had me on the edge of my seat, eyes wide open in awe of everything happening on screen. For a film as linear and minimalist as 1917, an incredible responsibility falls on the composer to make sure nothing feels repetitive or "slow," and Newman absolutely does the heavy lifting.