The Academy Awards are tonight and I’m excited.
Why? Because I love movies and pomp and show-y self-congratulatory excess. I like Champagne; would I drink it every day? No. But on occasion, say early February, I’m fine with popping a bottle and letting it air out; I’m fine with watching famous people perform their feats of fancy.
Each year I try to watch as many movies as I can to prepare for this night. I don’t see everything – I don’t try to – but I crossed quite a few off my list in these past five months. As I write this, I just emerged from an early morning screening of Jojo Rabbit, a multi-nominated film that’s on the shortlist for Best Picture.
As with last year, below are my predictions (and preferences) for each of the eight major categories. Unlike last year, I skipped the shorts (blame a shortened Oscar season). OK, here goes:
The Irishman, Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi
Joker, Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Little Women, Gretta Gerwig
The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten
My Prediction: Jojo Rabbit
My Preference: Little Women
Jojo Rabbit deserves more ink than I’m willing to give it in this blog. I went in thinking I was going to see the work of modern Mel Brooks, but that wasn’t quite right. The slapstick exists (there’s a Brooks-ian gag about a group of German shepherds), yet Waititi’s pen is a little more self-serious. There’s a slurry of tones at play here and I don’t think they fully coalesce into an Oscar winning work. I mean I do think it’ll win the Oscar, just give me the literary Little Women.
Knives Out, Rian Johnson
Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach
1917, Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once upon a Time…in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won
My Prediction: OUATIH
My Preference: Marriage Story
I keep seeing Parasite listed as the bettor’s favorite in this category, though I’m not sure why. To me, that’s a film of production, of craft. There are big ideas but I believe that’s a successful film for its clever staging and production design. Marriage Story is a worthy winner (and I haven’t seen Knives Out, shame on me) but Tarantino is an Academy favorite as a writer.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
My Prediction: Brad Pitt
My Preference: Brad Pitt
The problem with the Oscars is that they are the last award show of the season. They’re special, sure. But by the time they’ve arrived there’s no secrets; Brad Pitt is the winner here. We know that because he’s won everywhere else. He does good work and stands above the other nominees in this weak category.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
My Prediction: Laura Dern
My Preference: Laura Dern
I like Johansson in Jojo Rabbit more than her lead turn in Marriage Story, maybe I’m in the minority on that. Pugh I thought was excellent; I left that movie wanting to know who the hell was that. To me, that’s something. Dern will win (like Pitt, she’s won everything) and she deserves it. But I think this is a stronger category than most are saying.
Actor in a Leading Role
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
My Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix
My Preference: Leonardo DiCaprio
There’s a bit of a trend here, huh. Not too many acting surprises this year. Even so, I think this is a strong year for the nominees. This might be Leo at his best, Driver at his most empatheticly volcanic, Banderas, Phoenix…wait, why is Pryce here? Anyway, I liked Joker enough even thought we lost our ever-loving minds over it. How do I know that? Because DiCaprio won’t win. There’s a joke for you.
Actress in a Leading Role
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saorise Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renee Zellweger, Judy
My Prediction: Renee Zellweger
My Preference: Saorise Ronan
Here’s where I say I haven’t seen Judy. I haven’t seen Harriet either. I suppose that probably disqualifies me from writing about this category. Whatever. This is my blog and of the three performance I saw, my vote goes to Ronan, who is comfortably in the pole position of best actor of her generation. Driver is a nearby two. Ronan drips power and presence on the screen, which makes her turn at Jo March all the more resonate for how the character (and society) robs her of her agency. Watching her in Little Women is like watching Houdini escape his chains.
The Irishman, Martin Scorsese
Joker, Todd Phillips
1917, Sam Mendes
Once upon a Time…in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
Parasite, Bong Joon Ho
My Prediction: Sam Mendes
My Preference: Bong Joon Ho
Throw Phillips from this list or keep him on, whatever. This list is still an all-timer. Still, give me Gerwig (you may have guessed reading this list). Again, the secret’s out. Mendes is winning everything, and I get it. 1917 is impressive, it’s masterful. The direction is athletic, flexible; it ain’t Parasite, though. Director Bong turns a house into war zone. To me, that’s the pick.
Ford V Ferrari
Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
My Prediction: 1917
My Preference: Parasite
Another year older, another year wiser. For all the talk of diversity last year (talk that we thought reached its nadir with a Green Book victory), this year’s nominees are still mostly white, mostly men. Interestingly, more than a few of the most-nominated films wrestle with a similar idea: that of the end of a certain kind of white man.
There’s good and bad here. Mostly, it’s fine. I’ve read places that 2019 has been this grand year for movies (one of the best of the 2010s, in fact). I don’t subscribe to that. Maybe on average 2019’s films are better than those we left behind in 2018 (the 2018 Best Picture nominees are a crime against good taste), and it’s true, there are no stinkers here. I also don’t think we’re inducting any of these films into the Hall of Fame or even the lesser Hall of Very Good.
I thought I would use the remaining space to file my 2019 Best Picture ballot, a list I have deliberated over for several days now. Does it matter? No. But remember: the Oscars are about fun and imparting your obvious intelligence at the water cooler on Monday.
9. Jojo Rabbit
8. The Irishman
6. Ford V Ferrari
4. Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
3. Marriage Story
2. Little Women