You want Oscar predictions? How’s this: when the Academy Awards are handed out this Sunday, winners in the top categories—excluding actress nominees—will be white men.
Sure, some random female co-producers might swarm up in the production team accepting the Best Picture award. But (aside from Amy Pascal, solo producer of Little Women) you have to rappel down to the screenplay categories before you even find another female nominee. And if not for this year’s Korean phenom Parasite, there would be few top nominees at all of any ethnicity other than Caucasian males.
Movies are being made from more diverse viewpoints—Us, Harriet, The Farewell, Hustlers, Waves—but the Academy has still hasn’t gotten the memo, making this another year of #OscarsSoWhiteMale.
Of the movies that are anointed with Oscar nominations this year, the most hotly contested races are in the top two categories, Best Picture and Best Director. By contrast, all four acting winners are pretty much locked-in, after unanimous victories at all the other awards galas, so let’s start with those.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS Laura Dern, Marriage Story. Dern has a lifetime of sterling film and TV credits. She plays a tough LA divorce lawyer (a character familiar to most Academy members), and is likely to score her first win with this, her third Oscar nomination.
SUPPORTING ACTOR Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood. Who doesn’t want to see Pitt deliver another one of the droll acceptance speeches he’s already given for this performance this awards season?
BEST ACTRESS Renee Zellweger, Judy. Her gutsy performance is so close to the truth of Judy Garland’s persona—wry wit, nervous mannerisms, and all—and Garland’s effect on her fans, that we can forgive Zellweger doing her own singing. (Not bad, just not Judy.)
BEST ACTOR Joaquin Phoenix, Joker. He’s already won everything else. It’s chilling that Phoenix has tapped into some kind of grim cultural zeitgeist in this origin story of the pathetic failed comic fueled by psychosis to become the creepiest supervillain in the DC Comics universe. (Talk about art imitating life.) In a just, less traumatized world, the gold would go to Antonio Banderas in Pain And Glory, the performance of the year.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood. Of the four nominees also contending for Best Picture, Hollywood has the snappiest dialogue, coupled with a typically nervy Tarantino wish-fulfillment plot. But don’t rule out Parasite, whose savage satire on wealth and class makes it the likeliest spoiler of the evening.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Greta Gerwig, Little Women. In this notably guy-oriented field (The Irishman, The Two Popes, Joker, Jojo Rabbit), the Academy might offer Gerwig an olive branch after failing to nominate her for Best Director.
BEST DIRECTOR/BEST PICTURE These two categories used to be joined at the hip. But there have been recent upsets, now that there are so many more nominated films (nine, this year, each of which
Academy voters are required to rate in order of preference), diffusing the likelihood of a clear front-runner. There are still only five directing nominees, however, encouraging more focused voting. (That’s how Alfonso Cuaron won for directing Roma, last year, but the affable Green Book got more likes for Best Picture.)
So, narrowing down the movies to the five with nominated directors, Todd Phillips’ Joker is perceived as more of an actor’s showcase, Hollywood will pick up its awards in other categories, and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman has lost its pre-season buzz. That leaves Sam Mendes’ visually daring WWI epic, 1917 (constructed to look like it was shot in one, long take), and the upstart Parasite.
1917 is sure to win in the Best Cinematography category for veteran lensman Roger Deakins. Just as certainly, Parasite will clinch the prize for Best International (formerly Foreign Language) Feature. But my prediction is that Best Picture goes to 1917, and Bong Joon Ho walks away with Best Director for Parasite.
The 92nd Academy Awards will be broadcast live, Sunday, Feb. 9, 5pm, on ABC.