It’s become a favorite annual tradition for me to do my best impression of every internet know-it-all and blunder boldly into predicting the Academy Awards outcomes among movies I largely ignored. However, this year I’ve actually seen a good number of the movies up for the statue? Weird.
I’ll dive into predictions in a moment but my increased exposure to academy nominated films this year could be the result of:
- I’m getting older and watching more quality films rather than trash like Cats (not so, I watched both quality films and Cats)
- I’m simply hanging out with cooler people with better tastes that are having an influence on me (only partially true, as I was the one who championed a viewing of Cats so the people I surround myself with don’t wash away all my cinematic sins)
- There’s a better intersection of quality filmmaking and entertainment this year?
I think that last point, even if the answer is at best a hesitant ‘ehhh, maybe?’ is at least worthwhile to consider as I do my rundown this year. With that in mind, let’s start with the thespians:
Best Supporting Actress
While I pointed out that Jojo Rabbit accomplished the hefty task of making me charmed once more by Scarlett Johansson, I don’t think the role stretched or demanded enough range from her as it could have to properly secure the statue. Can we call this year the year of the Dernaissance? Laura Dern has the kind of folkloric hero status that Keanu Reeves has, and while I love to see my heroes win statues, I haven’t heard enough credible good about Marriage Story to feel like she’ll win it for that.
While Florence Pugh did a great job at adding dimension and depth to a character from Little Women most other adaptations leave as just the antagonistic sister among the family, I’m feeling the pull of Kathy Bates. The Academy loves when a powerhouse actor comes back after a few quiet years to throw some haymakers and Bates seems to have done so with her turn in Richard Jewell by all accounts. Pugh is young, the Academy will say she has decades left to come back for hers.
Winner: Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Best Supporting Actor
I blinked a few times reading this section of nominees because it’s something of actor’s dream team list of nominees: Pacino, Hanks, Pitt, Pesci, Hopkins. They’re all such legends in their own times that I can just drop their last names and you know exactly who they are and if you don’t, did you fall asleep Rip Van Winkle style and start reading this article to catch up on the state of cinema after the past 50 years? If so, thank you for coming.
In order to delay having to pick a winner among these, I do want to point out a curious phenomenon of the Supporting Actor category in that it sometimes functions like a weight class does for fighters: sometimes actors drop weight to compete in what might be a less competitive class, and the hilarity of this list then is that 5 heavyweight champions all made the same decision. Is this the first time a category is entirely stacked with prior winners? Everyone nominated here has at least one Oscar already, Hanks and Hopkins have 2 apiece.
However, Pitt’s Oscar is as a Producer of 12 Years a Slave, so the cynical side of me says he’ll win it despite the issues with Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. The more optimistic side of me hopes Joe Pesci having eschewed retirement to do what he does best (act as a mobster for Scorcese) will nab him the win, but Pitt’s had a year both on and off the screen. He’s somehow elevated seamlessly to an iconic status I didn’t think existed beyond the strata he already occupied. It’s supposed to be about the movies, but honestly? It really isn’t. I think Pitt just takes the edge on this one.
Winner: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
I’ll be brief here and say up front I think Leonardo DiCaprio takes it here. Why? Because on the one hand I would love if after years of hoping and dreaming of finally winning an Oscar the Academy just started throwing them at Leo every year to make them mean absolutely nothing to him as a Twilight Zone style irony, and on the other hand because Hollywood is exactly so masturbatory as to love Once Upon at Time… In Hollywood this much.
Now we come to our first encounter with Joker among the nomination categories and I’ll finally address my months of silence on the film: I didn’t see it, but I read the script. It’s an irresponsible movie that confuses grotesquery for statement and meaning. Did it inspire acts of violence or terrorism? No, but it certainly gave a lot of people fodder for responding to society’s mistreatment with virulent blame and vitriol rather than self awareness and personal accountability.
Phoenix’s performance is certainly dedicated and jarring, but that doesn’t always do it. DiCaprio felt real and layered in a way you wouldn’t think an aging actor playing an aging actor would be able to play just because of how reflective it automatically has to be in ways both good and bad.
Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
As soon as the nominees list was released this morning my trending topics on Twitter already had the discourse of lack of diversity among the nominees as a topic being widely discussed. That being said, the Academy loves biopics like Harriet, so I’ll be surprised if Cynthia Erivo doesn’t win the award.
Charlize has already won previously and is regularly cited as the peak example for how female actors really only win if they ugly themselves up (re: Monster). She’s peak Theron gorgeous in Bombshell, as is every other nominee in their respective roles. Johansson is already nominated in two categories so two noms are going to have to equal a win for her this year.
Winner: Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
I want to begin by saying it’s disappointing that yet again this category is male dominated when Greta Gerwig’s Little Women was an obvious and justified piece of filmmaking to earn her a nod, especially compared to the others in the category. That being said, this is why for this category my pick is the result more of ennui and cynicism than any real acclaim.
Everyone is giving Scorcese thumbs up as a champion of the art of cinema and I do love him. The guy’s great and his films are too. Parasite absolutely deserves this award (and every award for which it was nominated as well as some for which it wasn’t*). Parasite is going to win Best Foreign Film though, and I think in this category the Academy is going with the safe choice of Sam Mendes for 1917. Sure everyone can argue for the other films they may have liked better- Joker, Irishman, Parasite, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood– but can anyone really argue against 1917?
Sometimes the Academy just takes the safest, most defensible route in these things. It’s the Shakespeare in Love of the category this year.
Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917
Out the gate, the three most likely winners to me seem like Parasite, The Irishman, and 1917. I’m stating up front I absolutely think it should be Parasite with a bullet. Why not The Irishman? It’s three and a half goddamn hours. Of the 92 Films to win Best Picture, only 10 have ever been longer than 3 hours, and only one of them came out this century (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, 2003). There were people online discussing the length of the Irishman just as much as anything else, and the debate about episodic breakdowns for it.
I’m not going to debate the film v. series thing a lot of people were embroiled in, but suffice it to say that in this category I believe 1917 will once more be the safe choice that takes it home while everyone else is fighting.
*I want to avow for the record that I believe Parasite deserves Best Picture and Director, Bong Joon Ho did a tremendous job on this film, it’s a masterpiece. More than that, Kang-ho Song and So-dam Park each deserve Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively for their roles in the film.