Oscar Gold 2020 – Who Will Win?

It’s been a long Blitz, getting from there to here. There being the nominations and here being the annual official prediction blog! We’re just over 48 hours away from handing out the hardware, and while I’ve spent the last 24 days giving my opinions on who should win, it’s time to put my proverbial money in the place of my mouth and figure out who will win.

Now, bear in mind that whatever the results, they don’t validate or invalidate whatever you or I thought about the process or the quality of the individual films. This is the post to help you fill out your office pool. This is the post to get you bragging rights among your friends, family, and coworkers.

So how do I make my determinations? Simply put, precedent. A simple perusal of the various Wikipedia pages for each film will tell you what accolades the movie has and hasn’t won. The more awards and the higher the prestige level, the more likely they are to win the big one. For our purposes here, the high prestige awards are the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the various guild awards.

In the absence of that kind of information, I can speculate on how the winds are blowing with the Academy based on previous habits. For example, Costume Design is traditionally a category that favors so-called “dressmakers.” If there’s no real Awards Season data to comb through, I can at least rely on tradition. Similarly, there is the occasional backlash from the Academy based on a perceived snub. In recent history, Argo can largely pin its Best Picture win on resentment that Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director. This year, there is genuine anger over the lack of representation in the major categories, with almost no women outside of the acting fields, and almost no minorities whatsoever. Will that be enough to lift some underdogs over the top? It’s possible. The Academy’s expanded membership to younger and more diverse professionals certainly helped Black Panther to overachieve last year.

There’s one other factor, and that’s Best Picture bias. Since the Best Picture field expanded to eight or more nominees beginning in 2009, there have been 89 total nominees (not including this year). Of those 89, only 25 have been shut out completely, and the bulk of those were in years where effects-driven films like AvatarGravityMad Max: Fury RoadHugo, and Inception dominated the technical and artistic categories. Apart from that, the Academy has something of a penchant for spreading the wealth. In a way, they need to justify the expanded field by giving something to as many films as possible. If a bunch of films get shut out, then why are they up for the top prize to begin with? So with that in mind, I will lean towards the Academy trying to give every Best Picture nominee at least one award. I won’t necessarily predict a win for every film, but bear in mind that this is the overall intent of the body.

I’ll brag slightly that I did really well last year. I even got 2nd place in the Laemmle Theatres pool. This year, however, I’m not nearly as confident. A lot of the categories are utter crap shoots. Some look like they’re leaning in a certain direction, but there are cases to be made to go completely elsewhere. As such, I’m going to divide the ceremony into one of three categories, depending on my level of confidence in the result. Some are a pure gamble, which means if you follow my advice it’s a pure gamble for you, results not guaranteed. At the same time, there are some awards that are so locked in by this point that you’re just shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t pick them, regardless of your preference. As always, with each category I’ll provide a reminder of my personal vote for what should win alongside my pick of what actually will.

With that, it’s time to pre-open the envelopes. Here are your (presumed) winners for the 92nd Academy Awards!

Group I: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend. I’ll Take a Shot in You Again.

This group is reserved for the categories that are just complete crap shoots. There’s either no data to go on, or a plethora of disparate data that makes it all but impossible to confidently predict the winner, but I’m gonna try my best anyway.

Animated Feature
This is a category that has been dominated by Disney and Pixar since its inception, but this year, one of Disney’s favorites didn’t even get nominated, as Frozen II didn’t make the final cut.

For tradition’s sake, the win might go to How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The entire trilogy has been nominated, but it’s never won. The Academy likes to reward complete efforts once they’re done. For example, see The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which swept the Oscars as a grand award for the entire trilogy’s achievement. Among the other four, I Lost My Body won the Annie Award for Independent Feature, Missing Link got the Golden Globe, Toy Story 4 won with the Producers Guild, and Klaus won the BAFTA.

We can’t eliminate anything, so for the sake of a tie-breaker, I’ll go with the Annie Awards, which is given out to animated films by animators, and can have heavy influence over Academy voters writ large. In this year’s ceremony, I Lost My Body got the Independent award, but the top prize for Animated Feature went, somewhat surprisingly, to Klaus. I’m hoping I’m wrong here, because this was the lowest quality entry of the set, but I’ve got little else to go on.

Should Win: Missing Link
Will Win: Klaus

Documentary Feature
This category is always up in the air, as each guild and governing body seems to pick a different winner. There’s hardly ever consensus, mostly because the type of film that would get consensus never gets nominated, as the Documentary Branch hates anything with commercial appeal.

The BAFTA went to For Sama, which was also nominated for Outstanding British Film. It’s also up for the Independent Spirit Awards, to be handed out tomorrow. The Directors Guild gave their prize to American Factory. The Producers Guild gave the award to Apollo 11, which wasn’t nominated, and the Writers Guild gave their nod to The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, which wasn’t even shortlisted, nor were any of the other nominees.

This basically comes down to which faction of Academy posturing will win out. On the one hand, the Documentary Branch clearly wants a Syria film to win, as they’ve nominated basically every feature that’s come out over the last five years, and For Sama brings a heretofore unseen female perspective on the humanitarian crisis, which also exists with The Cave, so vote splitting may occur. On the other hand, American Factory is distributed by the Obamas, and Hollywood is quite liberal. In the age of Trump, there may be a huge temptation to give the last functioning adult to reside in the White House a vicarious win as a middle finger to our Cheeto-Stained Shit-Gibbon-in-Chief. I’ll break the tie on personal preference.

Should Win: For Sama
Will Win: For Sama

Film Editing
Conventional wisdom would have said going in that this was a fight between Ford v Ferrari and The Irishman. However, the ACE editors’ union delivered a surprise with this year’s Eddie Awards. The Drama winner was Parasite, while the Comedy winner was Jojo Rabbit. More often than not, the Drama winner goes on to win the Oscar, which bodes well for Parasite.

So why am I not more confident in this? Well, because of Best Picture bias. Apart from the Sound categories, this is the only chance Ford v Ferrari will get to pick up a win. 1917 will likely dominate the technical fields, but it strangely isn’t nominated here, which opens the door to the other tech-heavy Best Picture nominee to get a token prize.

It’s a duel of Academy swing votes. Do you spread the wealth, or do you give the upstart Parasite as much love as possible knowing it won’t win Best Picture? It’s a coin flip, but I’ll go with precedent on this one.

Should Win: Ford v Ferrari
Will Win: Parasite

Live Action Short
The Short categories are almost always random, though we actually have some info to go on this year in two of the three fields. The exception is Live Action, where we basically have no data.

Of the nominees, the only one to pick up any significant international festival hardware is Brotherhood, but it’s hard to say if that’ll translate to a largely American voting populace. Also, you could easily make a case that A Sister will win because it’s one letter off from an Animated Short nominee. You might laugh, but a few years ago, the Academy gave Live Action Short and Documentary Short to two films dealing with suicide crisis hotlines. Sometimes convenience wins.

While Nefta Football Club is my favorite, I have no confidence in it winning, as the Academy hates comedy. What they do like is social justice and tales about marginalized communities. In yet another chance to flip off Orange Hitler, they have an easy opportunity with Saria, which deals with Guatemalan orphans who die trying to get out of their country and into America. In an era where we literally put migrant children in cages, the idea of rewarding a film that shows other children in cages is very tempting.

But again, this is 100% conjecture.

Should Win: Nefta Football Club
Will Win: Saria

Group II: When You’re Right 52% of the Time, You’re Wrong 48% of the Time.

Every category here has sufficient data or history for me to make an informed prediction. I may not be right, but I can at least say with confidence that these are educated guesses. Your mileage may vary.

Animated Short
This is essentially a contest between the two films most accessible to voters and viewers via YouTube. Hair Love can make a case for representation, as it presents a black family where the focus is on a young girl. Do not discount the Women of Color vote. On the other hand, you have Kitbull, which apart from just being adorable, is also part of Pixar’s Spark Shorts program, and it’s very rare to leave Disney/Pixar out of the mix entirely. Toy Story 4 may win Animated Feature, but that’s much more up in the air than this one.

Unfortunately, the Annie Awards are no help to us, as none of the nominees were in their field for Animated Short. So honestly, I’m going with historical precedent, personal preference, and global reach, as one film has 39 million views on YouTube, while the other has 14 million.

Should Win: Kitbull
Will Win: Kitbull

Documentary Short
More often than not, you can win this category with a creative title. Recent examples include Period. End of Sentence.Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405A Girl in the River: The Price of ForgivenessCrisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, and The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life. The other pertinent theme across these titles is that with the exception of Crisis Hotline, all the stories focus on women.

That should pretty much put the category in the bag for Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl). The title is creative, the story is clearly about girls, and just for good measure, it won the BAFTA for British Short Film.

It also happens to be the best of the bunch regardless of trends.

Should Win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Will Win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

Makeup & Hairstyling
Kazuhiro Tsuji, now known simply as Kazu Hiro, won this award two years ago, coming out of retirement to turn Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. Last year, the prize went to Vice, for turning Christian Bale into Dick Cheney. Now, Hiro is up again for turning Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman into Gretchen Carlson, and John Lithgow into Roger Ailes.

What I’m saying is that it’ll be a three-peat for turning relatively thin actors into fat guys. Even if that wasn’t my cynical take, you have to admit that everyone pretty much looks their part (except for the stand-ins playing Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, but you can only go so far when it comes to recreating unmitigated evil).

This should be fairly cut and dry, as the film picked up wins at the BAFTAs and basically swept the awards of the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists guild. The only reason this isn’t a lock is because this is the first year that the category has expanded to five nominees. It’s hard to make a guarantee on something that’s never happened before, and with more options, there’s more opportunity to spread votes. Also, with Joker leading the way with 11 nominations, there’s going to be a scramble to give it enough awards to justify the glut of nods, so there is a dark horse contender.

Should Win: Joker
Will Win: Bombshell

Original Score
Even though the score is largely droning cellos, Hildur Guðnadóttir has taken home the major hardware so far this season, winning both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for her work on Joker.

There are two reasons why this isn’t a lock. One is that there have been other winners across the various awards circuits, including for Little Women and 1917. Given the desire to give Little Women at least a couple of wins in retaliation for Greta Gerwig’s Best Director snub, this could pull the upset. Also, as 1917 is the favorite to take home Best Picture, you might find a couple surprising wins to pad the résumé. Still, I think this is safely in the Icelandic cellist’s pocket.

Should Win: Little Women
Will Win: Joker

Original Song
This is a little bit of a shot in the dark, only because we have but one bit of data to consider, and that’s the Golden Globes, where Elton John’s duet with Taron Egerton, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” won out. It would seem that the Oscars are taking a cue from this result, as apart from Cynthia Erivo’s “Stand Up” from Harriet, none of the Golden Globe nominees was given the nod by the Academy, and the BAFTAs don’t do an Original Song category. As the Globes are much more about celebrity spectacle than actual quality, I’m guessing the Music Branch of the Academy (rightly) decided, “Okay, fine, you get to have Taylor Swift and Beyoncé for star power, but we’re going to consider actual music now.”

Still, this is for all intents and purposes a two-horse race. Elton won the Globe, but really the concern is finally getting a major award for Elton and Bernie Taupin together, which has never happened (Globe doesn’t count). On the flip side, with a win Erivo becomes the youngest EGOT winner in history. And while she does have a chance at Best Actress (insomuch as simply being nominated gives you a chance in a vacuum), this is her much better shot. In the end, I think the tie-breaker will be some mild backlash for Taron Egerton not getting nominated for Best Actor.

Should Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman
Will Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman

Production Design
This is a two-horse race, but really, it’s a battle of locals. The BAFTA award in this category (also called Art Design), went to 1917, which makes sense given the home turf. Just about everything else, including the Art Directors Guild, gave their love to Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh for Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood.

This would be a lock were it not for the BAFTAs, but really, this should be in the bag for Ling and Haigh. They literally transformed downtown Los Angeles into a façade of its former self from 50 years ago. As an L.A. resident, it was a sight to behold. And most of the Academy voters live and work in this city, so they all saw the effort in real time. I’m about as confident as I can be on this without moving it into the third group.

Should Win: Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
Will Win: Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Sound Editing
The Sound awards will either give Ford v Ferrari a lifeline for its faint Best Picture hopes, or it will solidify 1917 as the favorite to all but sweep the technical categories. The WWI drama got the BAFTA for Best Sound, which combines the two categories. At the Golden Reel Awards, which is given out by Sound Editors, 1917 won for editing Dialog and ADR, but the award for Foley Art and overall Sound Effects went to Ford v Ferrari.

This is a tough one to call, because if there’s going to be a split in the Sound categories, this is the year to do it. It’s happened three times over the last decade, so it wouldn’t be unheard of for Ford v Ferrari to get a win here and for 1917 to win for Sound Mixing. This time, I think I have to go with the odds.

Should Win: Ford v Ferrari
Will Win: 1917

Sound Mixing
As I said, movies from the 2010s have so far done a 6-3 split when it comes to the Sound categories. Six times one film took both categories, twice there was a pure split, and even once there was a split with a tie. I’m not banking on that happening again anytime soon.

Of the two categories, this is the one that’s most solidly in the bag for 1917, as the only real competitor would be the otherwise overlooked Ad Astra. This should be an easy win for the front-runner. The real intrigue is whether it will actually take both awards.

Should Win: 1917
Will Win; 1917

Visual Effects
This should be an interesting one, as precedent in this year’s Awards Season and Academy past makes this one hard to predict. The BAFTA went to 1917, but we may be getting into territory of just giving it awards because it’s very very British. The Visual Effects Society, however, gave awards to two of its competitors, namely The Irishman and the utterly shameful Lion King remake.

If there’s a realistic chance to beat 1917 for one of the tech awards, this is your best shot. More importantly, it’s the only opportunity that The Irishman will have to pick up a win outside of Film Editing. It’s one thing for Ford v Ferrari to go home empty handed. It’s just a dad film with a handful of tech nominations outside Best Picture. The Irishman, on the other hand, has 10 nominations, tied with 1917 and Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and only one behind Joker. It’s going to look really bad if it doesn’t win something. Then again, this isn’t unprecedented, as Martin Scorsese’s last Best Picture nominee, The Wolf of Wall Street, is one of those 25 films that have been completely shut out in the expanded field.

Academy history may actually throw this to The Lion King, as Jon Favreau’s last Disney “live action” remake, The Jungle Book, took this category a few years ago. The main difference there was that there was a human in the green screen studio for all those effects to be animated around. Here, no such thing. There is no live action. This is just a cartoon, and a bad one at that (currently holds a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes). I’m guessing this will finally be the year that Disney gets something of a rebuke from the Academy at large. And even if it wasn’t terrible, this category can feature blockbusters but still typically gets awarded to a Best Picture nominee if that’s an option. As such, I’ll give Scorsese his token.

Should Win: The Irishman
Will Win: The Irishman

Original Screenplay
I saved this one until the end of the group, as it’s the only “major” category that is in any way in doubt. Quentin Tarantino won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay (the HFPA doesn’t split into Original and Adapted), so I proceeded along the Blitz under the assumption that Original Screenplay would come down to QT and Sam Mendes, with one winning here and the other taking Best Director.

But then the other outlets had their say. Both the BAFTAs and the Writers Guild gave this category, somewhat surprisingly, to Parasite. I have to say, I was thrilled, as I didn’t think the larger voting community would be as engaged with the dialogue and story as they normally would be in Tarantino’s reference-laden ode to Tinseltown. It would appear the winds have changed here, and I will gleefully go where they follow. But I will say I was shocked to see this play out the way it has.

Should Win: Parasite
Will Win: Parasite

Group III: 

For our final 10 categories, it’s all over but the crying. Each and every one of these fields has been 100% determined by this point, so if you bet against them, you’re only hurting yourself.

It’s hard to believe that it took Roger Deakins so long to finally win an Oscar – which he got two years ago for Blade Runner 2049 – because he’s easily one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, masters of the lens alive today. With 1917 he’s excelled at the one-shot format, which resulted in a Cinematography win for Birdman the last time it was tried. This is pretty cut and dry. It took Roger forever to win, and now he’ll have two.

Should Win: 1917
Will Win: 1917

Costume Design
The last few years have introduced wrinkles into the traditional power of the dressmaker in this category, thanks to upset wins like Black Panther last year. However, Little Women took home the BAFTA when they just as easily could have given their favorite, 1917, another win. Instead, it wasn’t even nominated. Because even though dressmakers aren’t always at the top these days, there is something to be said for drawing attention to the craft. That certainly helped Phantom Thread win this category a couple years back, and it will help Little Women as well, as there are several scenes where the characters directly reference their dresses, particularly Meg and Amy.

Should Win: Little Women
Will Win: Little Women

International Feature
Whatever you want to call it, Parasite will win. While it isn’t always a guarantee that multiple nominations will give a film the Foreign prize, it is basically the case if one of those other nominations is for Best Picture. Of the international films that have received a nomination for the highest honor, the last one to not win Foreign Language was Il Postino (The Postman) from 1995. You have to go back 25 goddamn years (I don’t count Letters from Iwo Jima or Babel, as those were still largely American productions, and therefore ineligible for Foreign Language). If any other film besides Parasite were to win, it would be a huge rebuke, and honestly would call the entire process into question, as the full Academy body nominates for International Feature and Best Picture.

Should Win: Parasite
Will Win: Parasite

Adapted Screenplay
This should, should, have been a slam dunk for Greta Gerwig, both as an apology for snubbing her for Best Director and for Lady Bird getting completely shut out two years ago. However, the WGA and BAFTAs have had their say, and honestly, I did Nazi this coming. Both bodies went for Taika Waititi and Jojo Rabbit. I’m curious as to why, but there are traditional reasons. The Screenplay categories are where comedy can usually win, and again, Best Picture bias will want to reward as many of the nominees as possible, and this is the only realistic chance it has at a win. It’s a shock based on media and viewer reactions, but it’s still locked in just the same.

Should Win: Little Women
Will Win: Jojo Rabbit

Best Actor
And now we come to the final six, the four acting awards, Best Director, and Best Picture. All of them are completely, 100% set in stone. For Best Actor, Joaquin Phoenix has won the Drama Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and the Screen Actors Guild Award. The only potential competition he might have had would have been from the Comedy Golden Globe winner, but Taron Egerton wasn’t even nominated. Done.

Should Win: Adam Driver
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix

Best Actress
The same holds true in the Best Actress category. Renée Zellweger already has a Supporting Actress win, and now she’s upgrading to Lead. She won the Drama Globe, BAFTA, and SAG awards as well, and like Joaquin Phoenix, her Golden Globe counterpart on the Comedy side – Nora Lum, aka Misspelled Bottled Water – was not nominated.

Should Win: Saoirse Ronan
Will Win: Renée Zellweger

Best Supporting Actor
There is no split between Drama and Musical/Comedy for the Supporting categories at the Golden Globes, so this is a clean sweep for Brad Pitt. Globe, BAFTA, SAG, he’s won them all, and will basically have no competition on Sunday. Of the four guaranteed wins here, though, he’s the one who actually deserves it.

Should Win: Brad Pitt
Will Win: Brad Pitt

Best Supporting Actress
People wanted to bitch, moan, and complain that Jennifer Lopez didn’t get nominated, but what would it have mattered? Laura Dern has swept all the acting awards, so there would have been no chance anyway. It’s a shame, too, because Florence Pugh and Scarlett Johansson (who finally gets nominated only to lose TWICE in one ceremony) were both head and shoulders above Dern. I love her to death, but this is a hype and marketing win because she played against type, nothing more.

Should Win: Florence Pugh
Will Win: Laura Dern

Best Director
Sam Mendes won this award for his feature debut, American Beauty, 20 years ago. He’s also directed the last two James Bond films, both of which won Oscars for their theme songs. So as a reward, he’s going to get another Best Director award and be “serenaded?” by Billie Eilish. Truly, his life has peaked. The Directors Guild wasted no time in giving him their top honors, and the same holds for the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.

Should Win: Bong Joon-ho
Will Win: Sam Mendes

Best Picture
We have the ranked choice system in order to get the Academy to come to a consensus on the winner, but honestly, I don’t think it’ll be needed this time. The hype has never wavered for 1917 since well before the film even came out. And it would be a somewhat deserving winner. While it adds nothing new to the pantheon of war stories, it still is a tremendous technical and artistic achievement, and it’s really just well made. It wouldn’t get my vote (I have it 8th out of 9), but I’m not pissed about it winning. After wins from the Golden Globes (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood took Comedy Best Picture honors, but it’s got no real shot of winning here), the BAFTAs and the Producers Guild, this is about as cinched as can possibly be. We may honestly have a pure majority on the first ballot.

Should Win: Little Women
Will Win: 1917

Next up: Tomorrow’s something of an off day for the Blitz, as we prepare for the Main Event on Sunday. However, I plan to have a “Back Row Thoughts” column ready to give mini-reviews to the five films I had to seek out to complete the slate of nominees, plus we’ll have nominations for the Razzies, which I voted for! Then, on Sunday, before the Oscars, I’ll have results from the Independent Spirit Awards!

Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you agree with these picks? How’s your office ballot looking? What to you would be the biggest upset? Let me know!

2 thoughts on “Oscar Gold 2020 – Who Will Win?

  1. Despite not having seen… hardly any movies this year, I’m guessing Once Upon A Time In Hollywood will win Best Picture, because it’s a love letter to Hollywood. It seems to switch back and forth between socially conscious films (Green Book, Moonlight, Spotlight) and handjobs to show business (Birdman, The Shape Of Water)… it’s the love letters’ turn this time, so I think it’ll be Once Upon A Time.


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