I also provide my thinking behind each prediction, while also offering what I think are the other strong contenders in each category (if there are any).
The ceremony will take place on Sunday night February 9, 2020, at 8pm EST / 7pm CST. Hosted by no one, it will air on ABC.
My Predictions for Who Will Win
THE 92nd ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
This looks like a two-horse race between 1917 and Parasite, and arguments could be made for both given the distribution that the industry awards have given them, but with a Parasite win in the International Film category, it’s hard to see it winning here, too (especially since no Foreign film has ever won Oscar’s top prize). The war film is the safe bet, and the Academy will go safe here.
Mendes won the Director’s Guild award, which makes him the safest bet of the night. If he wins, he’ll have done so exactly 20 years after having won Director and Picture for American Beauty. Bong Joon-ho may pull off an upset here but it’d legitimately surprise me. Parasite has a better chance at Picture than Bong does as Director. I’m still shocked that Tarantino doesn’t have a chance here or in Picture, two categories that he’s never won (he has two Screenplay Oscars). If a love letter to Hollywood that everyone admires can’t get him Oscars for Director and Picture, then nothing ever will.
Phoenix has won every major industry pre-cursor award. He’s a lock here. (Get ready for this reasoning to repeat itself…)
Zellweger has won every major industry pre-cursor award. She’s a lock here.
Pitt has won every major industry pre-cursor award. He’s a lock here.
Dern has won every major industry pre-cursor award. She’s a lock here.
In terms of quality, this is one of the most competitive categories (only 1917 comes up short by comparison). The race is between Tarantino and Bong, and I think Bong gets his individual Oscar here since he won’t as Director.
– Knives Out, Rian Johnson
– Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach
– 1917, Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
– Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
– Parasite, Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin Won
I’m going out on a limb with this prediction. The pre-cursor awards suggest that Jojo Rabbit has this in the bag, but I’m banking on Gerwig being admired enough (especially following her previously multi-nominated Lady Bird) that the industry will want to give her an Oscar here while also being able say that they honor women, too. A voter for Gerwig will be as much about saving face against the criticisms of mostly-white (and male) nominees as it will be the work.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Who Will Win: Klaus
Who Should Win: I Lost My Body
Netflix’s Santa Claus origin story Klaus cleaned up at the industry’s various animation awards, so it’s likely to see its streak capped here. It’d also be a welcome honor to 2D animation, a style that has been all-but abandoned in feature filmmaking.
There’s some good films here, but it’s still no contest. Parasite winning here is one of the locks of the night.
– Corpus Christi (Poland)
– Honeyland (North Macedonia)
– Les Misérables (France)
– Pain and Glory (Spain)
– Parasite (South Korea)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Who Will Win: American Factory
Who Should Win: The Cave
This is a tough one. I was originally betting on The Edge of Democracy because of its examination of right-wing politics in Brazil and how that’s intended to be a warning about the same in the United States. That kind of thing would be difficult for liberal Oscar voters to resist. But ultimately, so much is riding on one simple factor: how many of these films did Oscar voters actually see? If it comes down to that, and it likely will, then the Netflix/Obama joint American Factory would come out on top. (FWIW, For Sama won at the BAFTAs, which is the British equivalent of the Academy Awards, and there’s a lot of membership crossover between those two academies.)
– American Factory
– The Cave
– The Edge of Democracy
– For Sama
I’m no fan of Joker, but many of its tech credits are first-rate, perhaps especially Hildur Guðnadóttir’s eerie score. Thomas Newman, an industry legend, has never won despite 15 nominations so he could upset here with 1917 if enough voters believe he’s overdue, but the industry awards have all been going to Guðnadóttir. Have to believe this one will, too.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Who Will Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
Who Should Win: “Into the Unknown” – Frozen II
Elton John may have secured a win here when, during his Golden Globes acceptance speech, he said that he and his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin had never won an award together until that Globe win. After hearing that, Oscar voters will probably want to give them one, too.
– “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – Toy Story 4
– “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
– “I’m Standing With You” – Breakthrough
– “Into the Unknown” – Frozen II
– “Stand Up” – Harriet
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Who Will Win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Who Should Win: In the Absence
Strong contenders here up and down the category, but Learning to Skateboard has that perfect blend of addressing an important issue (the education of young girls under Sharia Law) while also offering hope and inspiration.
(read my review of all five nominees here)
– In the Absence
– Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
– Life Overtakes Me
– St. Louis Superman
– Walk Run Cha-Cha
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT SUBJECT
Who Will Win: Saria
Who Should Win: Saria
Another batch of mostly strong contenders, of which I think Saria is the best (which dramatizes a real-life tragedy involving teenage girl orphans in Guatemala), but the worst entry is probably its stiffest competition. The Neighbors’ Window is the lone English language entry, which may be enough to secure Oscar gold, but it’s also the most blatantly manipulative, and that can be catnip for Academy members.
(read my review of all five nominees here)
– Nefta Football Club
– The Neighbors’ Window
– A Sister
BEST ANIMATED SHORT SUBJECT
Who Will Win: Hair Love
Who Should Win: Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love hits a real sweet spot, as it is effectively sentimental while also giving Oscar voters an opportunity to recognize an African-American filmmaker telling an African-American father/daughter story. Its main competition is probably Kitbull because it’s from Pixar and also sentimental, but involving animals instead of humans.
(read my review of all five nominees here)
– Dcera (Daughter)
– Hair Love
Ugh. 1917 is the most overrated film of the year, as is its showy so-called “one take” camera approach. Technically impressive, sure, but not artistically, not in comparison to most of the other films here anyway. NOTE: if for some shocking reason 1917 doesn’t win here, then that could be a huge tell-tale sign that Sam Mendes’ Oscar favorite may get upset in the Director and Picture categories as well.
A tight three-way race here between Ford v Ferrari, Parasite, and The Irishman. I’m guessing that voters will go with the flashiest one, but industry legend Thelma Schoonmaker has enough respect to get the love for The Irishman, and Parasite won the American Cinema Editors award which is often a good predictor. (If Irishman doesn’t win here it probably doesn’t win anywhere, despite having 10 total nominations.)
Another tight three-way race here between 1917, Parasite, and Once Upon a Time…on Hollywood. The dark horse of the three is probably Parasite, and voter will undoubtedly love how Tarantino’s movie transported them back to a nostalgic Hollywood era. But in the end, I think 1917 gets it for the truly awesome scale on which these sets had to be built, ones that — given the nature of the “single take” visual approach — had to literally cover the same land mass as they would have in real life. Of all the awards that 1917 is nominated for, this is the one that it should win.
A really tough call here. Little Women didn’t even receive a nomination from the Costume Designers Guild (where Jojo Rabbit and Once Upon a Time… both competed), but Little Women did win the BAFTA and, historically, period pieces ranging from the 17th to 19th Century are like Oscar bait.
Another competitive category where only one (Maleficent 2) doesn’t stand a chance. I’m betting that Bombshell‘s double-take inducing “Is that Megan Kelly?!” transformation of Charlize Theron will win the night, along with some of the best, most authentic latex makeup I’ve ever seen that turned a thin John Lithgow into an obese Roger Ailes.
If Ford v Ferrari doesn’t win both sound categories, it’ll be an Awards Season crime. If 1917 wins both, it will portend a BIG night for that World War I epic.
I repeat: If Ford v Ferrari doesn’t win both sound categories, it’ll be an Awards Season crime. If 1917 wins both, it will portend a BIG night for that World War I epic.
I think there’s a lot of love and admiration for what the MCU has meant to the industry for the past ten years and I expect that to be expressed here, especially given how warmly embraced this OG Avengers finale was. But if it loses, I’d bank on the photo-realism of The Lion King, a movie that is an entire feature-length visual effect, and not The Irishman which, despite its innovations in de-aging, doesn’t seem to be all that beloved. And again, if 1917 wins here (which it could), it’ll be an early tea leaf for a big Oscar night sweep.