It’s that time of year again. Time for the movies of the past year to be awarded and “snubbed”. For average movie fans, opinions on the Oscars tend to range from apathetic to dismissive to enraged to disappointed. Regardless, I have done a quick overview of some of the major categories, detailing what will win and what deserves to win. You may agree or disagree with my assessment, but come Sunday night, neither my opinions nor yours will mean a damn thing, so let’s just have fun with it and hope that the deserving parties win while we still can.
Will Win: “1917”
The single take may have become something of a gimmick, but it is one that the Academy has appreciated in the past. Sam Mendes’ war epic delivers quality in many different areas of visual storytelling. There are other close contenders for the category this year, but “1917” delivers the most undeniably impressive filmmaking in terms of visual spectacle, tight storytelling, emotional resonance and even performances, despite none of its actors getting nominations. For that reason, I think it has a slightly better chance than the other nominees at getting the biggest award of the night. Whether it’s truly the best movie of the year is another question, but it is nonetheless deserving of the award.
Should Win: “Parasite”
Foreign films rarely get nominated for this category and have never won, so a win for Parasite would be a pleasant surprise. There isn’t anything revolutionary or new about this movie, but it delivers some raw storytelling of a quality that is rarely seen. American audiences have responded with nothing but delight to this movie, never throwing around words like “slow,” “boring,” “unsatisfying” or “confusing.” Considering that this is a foreign language drama with a premise that isn’t immediately that enticing, that is an accomplishment on its own. I think this is truly the best picture of the year, but I doubt it will take home anything more than the best foreign film award.
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: “Marriage Story”
This is admittedly more of a gut instinct on my part, because this category could go to any of the nominees. Noah Baumbach’s realistic dialogue and the emotional core of this story have garnered it a lot of attention from both critics and audiences. Its serious tone and honest performances make it more of an “Oscar Bait” movie that, for better or worse, give it a leg up on the other nominees.
Should Win: “Knives Out”
Making it effortless for an audience to remember the name of every character in an ensemble piece is impressive in itself. Bringing a fresh take to a genre that has been done dozens of times before and is far from ascendant in today’s film climate is an even bigger accomplishment. Then, creating a surprisingly relevant story with a humanity that is rarely seen in mystery stories makes this screenplay nothing short of stunning. I thought this was the best movie of the year, and I really want it to win the only category it has been nominated for.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: “The Irishman”
The 210-minute runtime of “The Irishman” makes the scope of its story seem epic and deep, which I honestly think makes a big difference here. It also helps to have three legendary actors saying the majority of the dialogue in your script. This calls back to the mobster films that made Scorsese famous decades ago, and the Academy’s track record with movies based on real people and events make it a relatively safe bet for this category.
Should Win: “Joker”
Admittedly, this is the only other movie on this list that I have seen. However, I think that “Joker” will deserve the awards that it gets. It functions as an excellent character study, and its tone never feels like it is trying to do more than tell the story of its protagonist in the most honest way possible. It may not be the most deserving nominee, but this screenplay is Oscar-worthy regardless of its competition.
Best Lead Actor
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix
I might be more hesitant about this prediction if Heath Ledger had not won for his “Joker” performance in “The Dark Knight.” However, Phoenix does give an undeniably stellar performance that has gotten plenty of recognition so far. The depth that he brings to this character is one that is rarely seen in any movie, let alone comic book movies. He shows us aspects that we have never before seen about a character that has had many onscreen incarnations. He may not be a shoe-in for the win, but if “Joker” is going to win any category, it’s this one.
Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix
Best Lead Actress
Will Win: Scarlett Johansson
“Marriage Story” was very much an actors’ movie, and Noah Baumbach really played up Johansson’s performance in the choices he made behind the camera and in the editing room. However, the deciding factor for her is that she is also nominated for best supporting actress for her role in “Jojo Rabbit.” I will be very surprised if she goes home empty-handed on Sunday.
Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o or Ana de Armas
Neither of these women were nominated, and I will admit that they may not have deserved wins for this year. But their lack of nominations should be addressed, partly because they both gave stellar performances and partly because it is a testament to how homogenous and white-washed the Oscars often are. I’m hardly the first person to point this out, but it’s worth harping on. Armas made me really care about her character in “Knives Out,” and the fact that she stood out while acting alongside some of the most acclaimed actors of the day is impressive. Nyong’o plays dual roles in “Us” and does it spectacularly, bringing nuance and gravitas to both characters. Unfortunately, both actresses and the movies they starred in were overlooked.
Will Win: Sam Mendes — “1917”
Yes, the single take is a gimmick, but it is still an impressive one. And it is actually quite effective in this case and only very rarely feels forced or calls attention to itself. Plus, the Academy has given Mendes this award in the past, albeit 20 years ago and for a very different movie (“American Beauty”). The lighting and choreography is stellar at nearly every point in the movie and is legitimately exhilarating in many scenes. It doesn’t feel like Mendes set out to win awards with this movie; it feels like he just had a vision and brought it about to its fullest extent, and for that I think he is deserving of this award.
Should Win: Sam Mendes — “1917”