It’s a task I set about each year: to watch every single film nominated for an Academy Award before the time rolls around for that year’s ceremony. This year, I managed it, a feat I’m very proud of, so let’s discuss what I think will win, what I think should win, and what I think you should watch for yourself.
It’s a feat I try to accomplish each year: to watch every film nominated for the Oscars in time for the ceremony. This year, 53 films were nominated across 24 categories. I’d seen about 30 of these films before the nominations were announced and a lot of them were my favourite films of last year: Marriage Story, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Rocketman, Little Women. And a fair few of them were finally released in the UK over the past few weeks and I’m already deeply in love: Parasite, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, 1917.
So, in my typical fashion, I’m going to break them all down. Category by category, let’s discuss what I predict will win, what I think should win, which films in each category I think you should watch for yourself, and maybe a few mentions of snubs…
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Bong Joon-Ho & Han Jin-won for Parasite
Should Win: Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story
Worth Your Time: Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Parasite, Marriage Story, 1917
Marriage Story was without a doubt my favourite film of the past year, maybe even one of my favourite films of all-time, and its main catalyst for success is its incredible screenplay by Noah Baumbach, so to see that win here would be a dream come true. But I’m a realist, and I know that, in reality, that isn’t going to happen, and I think it’s most likely that Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-won will take this home for Parasite – what an awesome season we’re living in where I think a film from South Korea will inevitably take home a screenplay Oscar! The screenplay for Parasite is that film’s driving force as well, managing to expertly balance several genres and themes all at once without overwhelming or confusing the viewer; if it were to win, I wouldn’t be upset about it at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised by an upset from Quentin Tarantino. Out of the nominees, the only film I’m not sure about recommending is Knives Out. I was so excited about it last year, but it was Rian Johnson’s screenplay more than anything else that really let me down. Personally, I’d like to have seen Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman for Booksmart in here, too.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit
Should Win: Greta Gerwig for Little Women
Worth Your Time: The Irishman, Little Women
One of my least favourite films nominated for the Oscars this year is Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, an opinion that I know is unpopular with some, but alas. I found the film to be far too small-scale, and the tone it hit wasn’t anywhere near as kitsch and witty as it promised to be – if anything, it bordered on stupidity. Regardless, I see it winning here, much to my annoyance, especially because Greta Gerwig did magic with her screenplay for Little Women. A reasonably meandering tale is turned into a quick-witted and fast-paced masterwork by Gerwig, and the fact that she managed to turn the story’s “villain” Amy into everyone’s favourite character is deserving of this award alone. I was also thoroughly impressed by Steven Zaillian’s screenplay for The Irishman in this category, but I hated Joker and found The Two Popes unnecessarily boring.
Best Visual Effects
Will Win: Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Elliot Newman for The Lion King
Should Win: Dan DeLeeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl, and Dan Sudick for Avengers: Endgame
Worth Your Time: 1917, The Irishman, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Avengers Endgame
Let’s be real here, I am not a visual effects artist and therefore do not have their mindset to hand, but the work that they managed to do with Disney’s remake of The Lion King is a feat of creative genius and a touchstone in the history of technical arts that should probably be recognised. (It’s a shame that that film was boring as hell, though). I’d much rather see another Disney movie, Avengers Endgame, take the award home instead. The “Avengers assemble” final act battle scene alone is worthy of it. Every film nominated here is worthy of your time if you ask me, apart from The Lion King (but you probably already saw it anyway).
Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson for 1917
Should Win: Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano for Ad Astra
Worth Your Time: 1917, Ad Astra, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Ford v Ferrari
1917 is very deserving of every technical award going, but I’m of the mindset that it’s nice to spread the awards across of a slew of films. While the sound mixing for 1917 was fantastic, the work done on Ad Astra was equally as atmospheric, and arguably more impressive considering they had few real-life references to work from. While Ad Astra wasn’t as exciting of a film as I was anticipating when I saw it in IMAX last year, it was a work of technical genius in the same way that 1917 was, so I’d like to see it get some love. Every film nominated here is worthy of your time, apart from Joker.
Best Sound Editing
Will Win: Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate for 1917
Should Win: Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate for 1917
Worth Your Time: 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Ford v Ferrari
Continuing on from what I said before, it’s the sound editing that beats the mixing when it comes to 1917. To edit the picture together and make it look like one continuous shot sounds simple compared to the task of stitching together one continuous, ever-changing soundscape. They should and will win. Again, the only nominee I don’t recommend is Joker.
Best Live Action Short Film
Will Win: The Neighbors’ Window
Should Win: Une Souer
Worth Your Time: Une Souer
Live action short films were incredibly middling this season, which was a shame. The only one that really rose to the top of the pack for me was French language film Une Souer, which tells the story of a woman making a coded emergency services call while in the car with her abusive boyfriend. It’s gripping, captivating and incredibly inspiring all in one. If the Academy have sense this year, they’ll give it to them, but considering the traction its been getting in recent weeks, I think it’ll go to the rather dull The Neighbors’ Window. I think Une Souer is the only short that demands your time here, but if you’re looking for something tongue-in-cheek and silly, try Nefta Football Club as well.
Best Animated Short Film
Will Win: Hair Love
Should Win: Hair Love
Worth Your Time: Hair Love, Dcera (Daughter), Memorable, Sister, Kitbull
The best short form category this year is animation, with almost all of the films on offer worthy of the award. What I think will win though is Hair Love, which went viral on Twitter early last year before getting picked up and officially distributed by Sony Pictures Animation. It’s entertaining, but also incredibly culturally important. All of the other nominees here use animation in ways that extend far beyond the mainstream realms, which is why I think you should be watching them all.
Best Production Design
Will Win: Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh for Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Should Win: Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh for Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Worth Your Time: Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Parasite, 1917, The Irishman
I think that Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood deserves all the praise coming to it, and one big thing the industry and I seem to be in agreement on is its fantastic production design. Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh made 1960s California come to life on screen in the most vibrant and vivid way possible, so I think it will and should take home the award. Close behind would probably be 1917, which has equally immersive and breathtaking work to showcase, along with the house that Parasite built, and the world that The Irishman constructed. The only one I don’t think is worthy of your time? Jojo Rabbit.
Best Original Song
Will Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman
Should Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman
Worth Your Time: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “Into The Unknown” from Frozen 2, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again)” from Rocketman, “Stand Up” from Harriet
If you listen very carefully, you can probably hear someone in the distance shouting “Rocketman deserved better!”, and that someone would be me. But the one category it was always going to win? Best Original Song. The only chance of an upset here is probably “Stand Up” from Harriet, but I feel pretty confident in this one. I think all of the songs are great here, apart from the one from the film that no one had ever heard of that is also kind of boring (it’s called “I’m Standing With You” and the film is called Breakthrough).
Best Original Score
Will Win: Hildur Guðnadóttir for Joker
Should Win: Randy Newman for Marriage Story
Worth Your Time: Alexandre Desplat’s score for Little Women, John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Randy Newman’s score for Marriage Story
I am a fiend for a good score, and I believe that scores can be good in two different ways. Some scores work amazingly in the context of the film, heightening moments of emotional strain and tension, but when you get home and listen, they’re boring and don’t work. The other way is for it to heighten moments of the film, but still work at home. The score for Joker works in the former way, so I think it’s deserving of the award it’s inevitably going to win for sure, but I found it very hard to listen to back at home. In my eyes, Randy Newman’s score for Marriage Story was a character in and of itself, that elevated the movie and is a joy to listen to at home. It is probably one of my favourite film scores of all-time (and is definitely already one of my most listened-to albums of the year). The score for 1917 falls into the same category as Joker, hence my lack of recommendation there.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Will Win: Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker for Bombshell
Should Win: Jeremy Woodhead for Judy
Worth Your Time: Judy, 1917
It seems pretty likely that the team for Bombshell will be taking home this award, but I wish they weren’t. One of my big issues with that movie was how I was never not thinking things like “wow, doesn’t Charlize Theron look good in her makeup as Megyn Kelly here”, and that mindset drove me to the point of distraction. I can definitely see why it’s going to win the award here, but for the exact same reasons that they’re going to win for Bombshell, I want Jeremy Woodhead to win for Judy. I wouldn’t recommend the majority of films in this category, so just stick to 1917 and Judy.
Best International Feature Film
Will Win: Parasite
Should Win: Parasite
Worth Your Time: Parasite, Pain and Glory, Honeyland, Corpus Christi
This category is so obviously Parasite‘s that it doesn’t need dissecting much more than that, and deservedly so. It’s one of the most exciting, funny, thought-provoking and evocative movies of the past year, and I’m glad to see it up for the big prize of the night as well. I did also love Pain and Glory though, a film that would win this award in any other year, and I thoroughly enjoyed Poland’s submission, Corpus Christi. And Honeyland, while lacking the clout to win this award, is also truly wonderful in its own messy and subtle way. Unfortunately, Les Miserables is not out in the UK until April, so I can’t even recommend that one to you, but I’d recommend all of the other nominees on offer in a heartbeat.
Best Film Editing
Will Win: Tom Eagles for Joker
Should Win: Thelma Schoonmaker for The Irishman
Worth Your Time: The Irishman, Ford v Ferrari, Parasite
Editing is a hard thing to judge because its most often argued that the best editing is invisible. I actually have little clue as to who will win in this category, so my prediction for Joker is only backed by about 20% certainty on my part, but I know that I would like The Irishman to win. Thelma Schoonmaker stitches together an epic that flows effortlessly between scenes, establishing a brilliant sense of geography both literally and emotionally. It’s worth your time, along with Ford v Ferrari (which I could also see winning for its amazing car race scenes), and Parasite.
Best Documentary Short Subject
Will Win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Should Win: In The Absence
Worth Your Time: In The Absence
Like live action shorts, documentary shorts were kind of weak this year, with the majority of them managing to bore me despite their short running times. Despite its not being available to stream online yet, it seems like Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) is going to take this home, but my pick would be the harrowing and gripping In The Absence, which tells the tale of a boat disaster disgustingly overlooked by the South Korean government. It’s actually a good companion piece to Parasite!
Best Documentary Feature
Will Win: For Sama
Should Win: American Factory
Worth Your Time: American Factory, The Cave, Honeyland
Documentary feature was a super fun category this year, and while I was bored to death by one (The Edge of Democracy) and surprisingly unimpressed by another (For Sama), I was moved and inspired by the others. Honeyland I’ve already discussed, but let’s talk about who I think will win: For Sama. While it’s managing to impress audiences and critics alike, I can’t help but feel like its frantic nature tries to cover a bit too much ground when compared to the other Syrian-centric doc this year The Cave. I still think it’s likely to win though and maybe it is worth watching if you think you’d like it (it’s available for free on All4), but my personal favourite was American Factory, a documentary on Netflix produced by the Obamas. Telling the story of the GM factory, which was shut down and taken over by a Chinese glass-making company, the film looks at the human effect of capitalism, greed, and the power of the 1%. It hasn’t left my mind since I watched it, and I could not recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a massive snub to add to the list, might I suggest One Child Nation, which I thought was amazing.
Will Win: Sam Mendes for 1917
Should Win: Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Worth Your Time: 1917, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Parasite, The Irishman
This is the most-discussed category of the year, and while there are some snubs here (Lulu Wang, Greta Gerwig, to name two), most of the nominees are very deserving of their place. In fact, the only person I’d argue isn’t worthy of being here is Todd Philips for Joker (of course I would), but otherwise, each director brought something to the plate that moved filmmaking a little further forward in the culture. The weakest (and longest) shot of those four is Scorsese, but Bong Joon-Ho puts up a good fight for Parasite, though I would argue that the real impact there is in the screenplay. The obvious winner would be Sam Mendes for 1917, whose incredible work reaffirms my belief that he’s one of my favourite directors of all-time, but I would actually really like to see Quentin Tarantino win this one. It would be his first in the category, and to win it for what I would consider to be his best and most well-balanced film of his career would be a delight.
Best Costume Design
Will Win: Jacqueline Durran for Little Women
Should Win: Jacqueline Durran for Little Women
Worth Your Time: Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Little Women, The Irishman
This is an easy one. If there’s a period film nominated here, it’s likely to win, especially one that has such sublime and iconic design as Jacqueline Durran’s for Little Women. The costumes in this film are the kind that elevate the piece to a higher plain. She will – and should – win.
Will Win: Roger Deakins for 1917
Should Win: Jarin Blaschke for The Lighthouse
Worth Your Time: Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, The Lighthouse, The Irishman, 1917
This is a fun category! I agree with all of the nominations on offer and I know that Roger Deakins will of course win for his work on 1917, because he’s amazing and the obvious choice, but why not throw a little love The Lighthouse‘s way? Jarin Blaschke’s work here is unparalleled in a time when striving towards making clean-cut, fresh, modern looking pictures is the done thing. I didn’t love the movie, but I did find it interesting and I do find myself regularly watching clips of it to bask in its visual glory again. If the Academy decided to go out on a limb and give Blaschke the award, it’d be a great step in the world of film artistry (but, let’s be real, they won’t).
Best Animated Feature
Will Win: Klaus
Should Win: Missing Link
Worth Your Time: I Lost My Body, Missing Link, Toy Story 4
The animated features up for the award this year are a complicated bunch. Klaus, Netflix’s first original animated feature that I think will take home the award, is visually stunning, but thematically flawed. I didn’t think it was anything more than okay, and it makes me sad. What kind of film should win this award? We need to move on from believing that Disney is the only good animation studio out there, I agree with that, but while Frozen 2 might seem like a lazy choice on the surface, it not only had moral integrity and depth that a lot of animated films lack, but it also had technical achievements that no other studio could achieve. If I were in charge, it would win, but it wasn’t even nominated here. My pick would be Missing Link, a film that manages to be technically unbelievable, masterful being the only word I can use to describe it, but only slightly better than “good” when it comes to story. I agree that Toy Story 4, while a great movie, would be a lazy choice, and while Netflix’s I Lost My Body was unique, it isn’t Best Animated Feature fare, as far as I’m concerned.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Laura Dern for Marriage Story
Should Win: Florence Pugh for Little Women
Worth Your Time: Richard Jewell, Little Women, Marriage Story
What a bloody solid category. I tweeted the other week that making me choose between Laura Dern and Florence Pugh here is like the gay Sophie’s Choice, and I still cannot makeup my mind. 2019 saw me fall in love with Florence Pugh and her performance in Little Women had me demanding she be nominated for an Oscar as soon as I saw it (as you’d know if you follow me on Twitter). Thank God she’s in here. But my girl Laura Dern in Marriage Story, too!? My cup runneth over! I want Laura to win her first Oscar – she deserves it and I really cannot imagine that she’ll lose here – but I feel kind of empty about the fact, knowing that Pugh definitely gave the better performance. ScarJo was the only good part of Jojo Rabbit, so I’m actually really happy to see her here, and Kathy Bates was amazing in the gripping Richard Jewell, but I can’t help but feel like she stole the place of the brilliant JLo in Hustlers.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Should Win: Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Worth Your Time: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, The Irishman
Brad Pitt should and will win for his performance in Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, and that’s all that needs to be said about that! He gave one hell of a show, and with his work in this alongside his work in Ad Astra, it makes me so happy to see him treading the boards at the peak of his career. I also loved Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, easily one of my favourite films of 2020 so far, and the stars of The Irishman were great too, but they have nothing on The Pitt.
Will Win: Renée Zellweger for Judy
Should Win: Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story
Worth Your Time: Marriage Story, Little Women, Judy
The moment I saw Judy, I knew that Renee Zellweger would win the Best Actress Oscar, and that still seems to be the case. But while I was campaigning for her to win at the start, when Scarlett Johannson entered the race with Marriage Story in December, I started to change my tune. Interestingly, three people in the category this year are up for portraying real-life figures, one is up for portraying one of the most popular characters in literary history, but only one has crafted a role out of something new. I know that that is a controversial way to judge performances, but putting that to one side, I still think that ScarJo was the only actress in this category to reach into the emotional depths of her character and lay them bare for us all to feel alongside her. She was nothing short of amazing, and it’s a shame to think that that is going to be overlooked. Speaking of overlooked, no one was as snubbed as Lupita N’yongo in Us, whose lack of a nomination here is a crime against art. If they had sense, she’d be nominated here for dual roles, or even better, be nominated here for one of the roles, and in Best Supporting Actress for the other. Academy, sort yourselves out.
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
Should Win: Adam Driver for Marriage Story
Worth Your Time: Pain and Glory, Marriage Story, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
And I basically have the exact same opinion here as I do with Actress. I understand why people want Phoenix to win, but he didn’t manage anywhere near the kind of complexity that Adam Driver did in Marriage Story. Don’t get me wrong, I think Joaquin Phoenix is a phenomenal actor, but the screenplay (and direction) never allowed him to truly connect with the audience emotionally the same way that Adam Driver did in MS. If there is any justice in this world, the award in Driver’s, but I have little faith on that front.
Will Win: 1917 / Parasite
Should Win: Marriage Story / Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Worth Your Time: Parasite, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Little Women, 1917, Marriage Story, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
And now, the big one. I needn’t say that the only two nominees I didn’t like were Joker and Jojo Rabbit, because I’ve said that more than enough. And I’ve also discussed most of the other movies at great length (apart from Ford v Ferrari, which, let me say here, is so much better than you probably think it is). But what will win? It’s between 1917 and Parasite, I think. More than likely, it will be the former, but while I loved that film and should be happy about it, I think it would be so much more interesting for the latter to take it home. Funnily enough, despite me liking both of those, I think I’d actually rather see either of my faves win: Marriage Story, or Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood. The former has no chance, so never mind, but the latter does have the opportunity to cause a genuine upset: it won at the Globes, after all. We’ll see. But in all honesty, no matter who wins, I’ll be happy, considering the few most likely to win were all stellar in my eyes.