Predicting the 2020 Academy Awards (aka my picks for the Oscars)

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Because my health has been poor for some time now, I don’t get to the cinema any more. Which is unfortunate – not because I miss the “cinema experience” particularly, though going to see films with friends was an important part of my youth – but because it means I almost always end up seeing films several months after their release! By that point any hype and buzz has died down, and the conversation online has shifted to newer titles.

Nevertheless, as someone who follows the world of cinema and entertainment, I do stay as up-to-date as possible with at least some of the latest titles, and with the 92nd Academy Awards now a mere three days away, I wanted to have a first ever attempt at the longstanding tradition of making predictions!

You know how this works – I’ll make a few guesses at who might win in a few of the biggest categories. And then when we get the actual results on Sunday night (Monday morning here in the UK) you can have a good chuckle at how wrong I was!

My choices are from a combination of films I’ve seen and films I only know by reputation and review. These picks try to stay true to what I think the Academy will choose, but of course my own biases come into play as will my own hopes and preferences.

Let’s get started!

Best Visual Effects: The Lion King

This one might be a controversial choice. Should 2019’s The Lion King count as an animated film or not? I’d absolutely argue that it does – any film made using entirely digital creations is, by definition, a computer-animated film is it not? Notwithstanding that argument, the CGI used in The Lion King was outstanding. The animals and the environments looked photorealistic, such that it was impossible to tell you were looking at something wholly artificial.

This is a new direction for cinema. We’ve seen glimpses at this in other titles – 2016’s Rogue One springs to mind with CGI recreations of actors – but never quite on this level. For me personally, The Lion King was actually the worse for going down the route of extreme realism. In what should have been a fun kids’ film, with a story that is a modern-day Disney classic, the photorealism detracted from the story and the performances. Whether that’s simply because it’s something we’ve never seen before is a good question.

However, for me at least, I felt that the original film had much more character to it. It had more soul, more heart, and a uniquely “Disney” visual style. Whether photorealism will catch on for animation in a big way is thus something I’d question. The style and techniques used could absolutely feature in other titles, though, to supplement physical actors and props. The visual effects seen in The Lion King are unparalleled, and set an incredibly high bar for future titles to reach.

Best Film Editing and/or Best Cinematography: 1917

War epic 1917 had been on my radar for ages as one of the films I’ve been most interested in. It wasn’t until fairly recently, however, when director Sam Mendes was giving interviews regarding the film in the run-up to its release, that I learned how visually different the film was going to be.

1917 is filmed as if it were one continuous take, with the action following two British Army soldiers who are tasked with delivering a message to call off an attack and save lives. The film follows their journey through enemy-held territory to deliver the message in time, and was inspired by Mendes’ grandfather’s service in the First World War.

I think it’s absolutely up for Best Film Editing, but it could also nab Best Cinematography on the back of this incredibly ambitious one-take effect. It’s certainly something which is unique among 2019’s films, and the Academy loves uniqueness! There’s also a personal story – Mendes has talked at length in interviews about his grandfather, and because the First World War affected so many people, many families will have a connection to someone who fought in that conflict.

Best Original Song: (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again from Rocketman – Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Rocketman was very much a poor second to the other great musical biopic of the last couple of years, Bohemian Rhapsody. However, (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, which was written specifically for the film, has picked up a lot of buzz when it comes to winning Best Original Song – picking up the Critics’ Choice Award and Golden Globe in this category, which are often seen as good indications for the Oscars.

As an interesting aside, the song I’m Standing With You – a competitor in the Best Original Song category – was written by Diane Warren, who penned Faith of the Heart, the theme song to Star Trek: Enterprise. The film it’s taken from, Breakthrough, was directed by Roxann Dawson, who is of course well known for playing B’Elanna on Star Trek: Voyager. As a Star Trek fan I wish them good luck, but it looks like (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again has this one in the bag!

Best Documentary: The Edge of Democracy

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of documentaries as a genre. This year it’s interesting to see that all of the contenders in the Best Documentary category are foreign films, either wholly or partially in a foreign language. Of all of these, The Edge of Democracy is one that I think has a great deal of relevance.

Documenting the crisis in Brazilian politics, with a focus on the fall of Brazil’s last two presidents and the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, there are some parallels for the United States considering that Bolsonaro is called “the tropical Trump”, and his politics are somewhat comparable to the current American president.

Because it’s been on Netflix, and the Academy hasn’t always appreciated that, it might arguably be more of a long-shot, but I think the political themes present in The Edge of Democracy might push a few extra votes its way.

Best Animated Feature Film: Missing Link

There are some great animated films in the running this time. Netflix’s Klaus was a really cute Christmas film, but as mentioned above the streaming service isn’t exactly popular with the Academy. There was also Toy Story 4, the latest in that series and which was well-received, and of course the debate over whether The Lion King counts or not! But the Academy likes something different, and in an era of CGI and computer-aided animation, Missing Link absolutely fits that bill.

A stop-motion film with a great cast that unfortunately didn’t fare well upon release, Missing Link was nevertheless very well received by critics, and is exactly the kind of underappreciated, somewhat different and artistic film that the Oscars often like to honour. If it were to win, it would be the first stop-motion film, and the first film not to be computer-animated, to do so since the 78th Academy Awards in 2006.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Joker

Spoiler alert for the end of the list, but I don’t think Joker is going to be crowned Best Picture. To throw a bone to the superhero/comic book film genre though, it could well be awarded Best Adapted Screenplay instead.

Several high-profile folks in the film industry, like director Martin Scorsese, have gone on record saying that comic book films “aren’t real cinema” – a kind of artistic snobbery looking down on what “common people” like to watch, quite frankly. As a result, many comic-based films which have been hugely popular have ended up missing out on the industry’s top awards. And I don’t expect Joker to break the mould and win the top awards, but as the Academy often does, they may see fit to dish out a “lesser” award like Best Adapted Screenplay, or one of the Supporting Actor/Actress gongs.

Even though I’m not a particularly big fan of comic book films as a whole, there are some great films that have emerged from the genre, and Joker is absolutely among them. The film deserves some kind of recognition at least, and I think this could be one way of acknowledging it.

Best Original Screenplay: Knives Out

This one is going to be controversial in some circles because Rian Johnson is involved. Some Star Wars “fans” have been incredibly hateful toward the director of The Last Jedi; hate which is still present more than two years after the release of the middle part of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Though I personally think that The Last Jedi was a good film, the trilogy as a whole has been a bit of a mess – you can find my thoughts on the production of the trilogy by clicking or tapping here if you’re interested to read more.

But Rian Johnson’s most recent project has been Knives Out, a murder mystery film featuring an ensemble cast. I don’t want to spoil the plot but the film has been incredibly well received by critics for its writing and sense of humour in particular, as well as the mystery and the “whodunnit” nature of the film. These elements in particular lead me to think it could be in the running for Best Original Screenplay, and from a personal perspective it would be a hilarious middle finger to some of the Star Wars haters, and that would really just be the icing on the cake!

Best Supporting Actor: Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks in the trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

Growing up in the UK, I wasn’t aware who Fred Rogers (better known as Mister Rogers) was. But over in the United States its not unfair to say he’s a cultural icon – someone who many Americans will be familiar with from their childhoods. His long-running show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, was a mainstay of preschool and young childrens’ television for more than three decades, and Tom Hanks’ portrayal of the legendary figure in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has received almost universal acclaim.

Hanks is one of contemporary American cinema’s greatest actors, and has performed some incredible roles in his career. He’s already claimed two Academy Awards for Best Actor – for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. A combination of Hanks’ performance with the nostalgia and wholesomeness of Mister Rogers could absolutely net him his first award in the Best Supporting Actor category this time around.

Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johannson for Jojo Rabbit

Scarlett Johannson in the trailer for Jojo Rabbit.

Jojo Rabbit looks like an incredibly funny film – with a very serious subject matter. That can lead to a jarring disconnect for some viewers, and until I’ve seen it for myself it’s hard to judge. However, Scarlett Johannson has picked up incredibly strong support from critics for her role in the film, and could well be in with a shot here.

Interestingly, she could be the first ever actress (or actor of any gender) to win both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in the same year if she also wins for her role in Marriage Story. I’m not convinced she will, but the Academy does like to surprise us sometimes, so you can never tell!

Best Actor: Adam Driver for Marriage Story

Adam Driver in the trailer for Marriage Story.

Adam Driver is a phenomenal actor, and the range he shows in Marriage Story is incredible. I mentioned the Star Wars sequels earlier, but they lucked out to get someone of Driver’s calibre to play Kylo Ren.

Marriage Story being on Netflix may count against him here, unfortunately, and there has been a tidal wave of support for Joaquin Phoenix’s role in Joker. But the Academy doesn’t always like to follow trends, and if they decide to stay away from Joker for whatever reason, Adam Driver could still be in the running.

Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan for Little Women

Saoirse Ronan in the trailer for Little Women.

After being nominated twice before, for her roles in Brooklyn and Lady Bird, I think this could finally be Saoirse Ronan’s year. Little Women is perhaps an under-appreciated film from a popular point of view, but her performance has won praise across the board.

After having been nominated and rejected twice, she’s also in a strong position to stake a claim this time around. The Academy can be quite particular about bringing in a younger actor or actress into the club of Best Actor/Actress winners, but as she’s a little older and more experienced now than she was when nominated for her previous work, this could absolutely be her moment.

Best Director: Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Parasite has been an incredibly well-received film. It would be a rarity for the Best Director award to go to the director of a non-English film, but with all the buzz surrounding Parasite it could very well happen this time.

The film looks at social class, and the division between classes. In that respect it’s not dissimilar to Bong’s other significant film Snowpiercer – which, by the way, is set to be remade as a television series soon.

The Oscars in recent years have been plagued by accusations of racism and racial bias keeping non-white actors and directors away from the biggest awards, and there could well be a swing toward giving one of the top awards to Bong Joon-ho and Parasite as a counter to that argument. Members of the Academy will, at the very least, be aware of the criticism.

But Parasite and Bong’s direction are absolutely worthy of an award in their own right, and after winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, as well as many other awards, it could be a great night for the director at the Oscars too.

Best Picture: 1917

This award could absolutely go to Parasite as well, or the Academy could surprise me and give it to Joker. But as mentioned above, 1917 is a unique and visually distinctive film, one which I think has the potential to become a classic of the drama and war genres that people will be coming back to for decades.

Sam Mendes won for American Beauty twenty years ago, but hasn’t featured prominently at the Oscars since. This could definitely be his second win, though, because the Academy likes nothing better than a unique film with a dramatic premise.

There’s also that personal side, the story from the director’s grandfather, which paints a picture of 1917 as an homage to the First World War generation but with a distinctly personal take. In terms of being something altogether different from the other titles in contention, 1917′s appeal is cemented.

So that’s it. My predictions or picks for the 2020 Academy Awards. We’ll have to wait a few days to see if I’m right!

All films mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio and/or distributor. The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony takes place on Sunday the 9th of February at 5pm local time – 1am on the 10th of February in the UK. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.