Your guide to the 2020 Oscars

Over time, I’ve developed a deeper love for movies with each passing year; the more movies that I watch, the more refined my taste becomes, and I am able to more easily distinguish the good movies from the bad ones. 

However, knowing a movie is good is not the same thing as knowing it will do well at the Academy Awards. But, have no fear, for I study the trajectory of awards seasons just as ardently as I love the movies they praise. 

So, as follows is my dual list of who will win an oscar and who should win one. Keep in mind that I will only be talking about categories where I have seen at least three of the nominated movies, so I can more accurately cast predictions. 

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Will win: Parasite 

Bong Joon Ho’s instant hit was one of my biggest surprises this season. Like many western moviegoers, I’d been predisposed to fear non-English movies, so I’ll admit that the prospect of subtitles freaked me out a little bit. But Ho’s story is intense, with a particular shock factor in the third act. Additionally, wins last weekend at the Writers Guild Awards and British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards put Ho over Quentin Tarantino’s script for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, who I think is the best competition.

Should win: Parasite

Seeing a non-English movie win this award is very refreshing and not only politically correct but well deserved as well. 

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Will win: Jojo Rabbit 

Similar to Ho, Taika Waititi picked up a WGA and a BAFTA for his World War Two comedy. The levity and heart mixture of his script, combined with its feel-good likeability, adds up to a win for Jojo. 

Should win: Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s take on this classic was refreshing and inspiring. The hard copy of the script, which I highly recommend reading, has even more depth than what appears on screen. The task of adapting such a well-known story is daunting, but Gerwig did it with ease. This is one prediction I’d love to be wrong on. 

Best Visual FX 

Will win: 1917 

Looking at the other four nominees, blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars the Rise of Skywalker, it’s not hard to imagine some of the snobbier academy members voting for the award season juggernaut that is 1917. 

Should win: 1917 

Practical effects mixed with computer-generated ones combine in this movie so seamlessly compared to the garish CGI of fellow nominee The Lion King. 1917 is going to win a lot on Sunday, but I believe each award will be deserved. 

Best Costume Design:

Will win: Little Women 

This is a prediction that I’m not unequivocally married to, but I do believe this is the best chance Gerwig’s film has at winning an award. I think voters may choose to spread out the ballot.

Should win: Little Women

I mean, did you see the movie? I could talk about how each sister is represented by a singular color for hours and hours. I love period-piece costumes, and this did not disappoint. 

Best Film Editing 

Will win: Ford V Ferrari 

Again, this category is one that I’m not super strong on. I think this race car movie has no other shot at an award, so perhaps it’ll earn its prize here. 

Should win: 1917 

This movie wasn’t even nominated, which I find to be radically unfair. The one-shot style of this film deserves to be praised.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will win: Bombshell 

The transformation of Charlize Theron to news anchor Meghan Kelly truly was commendable. Additionally, this is the team that won for Darkest Hour a couple of years ago, so the Academy has already shown they have what it takes to win. 

Should win: anything but Joker

My answer might be in bad taste, but the clown makeup and box dye green hair deserve an Oscar nomination? Really?

Best Original Score

Will win: Joker 

Hildur Guðnadóttir has been winning next to every award, and for good reason. The score playing during the bathroom scene is eerie and beautiful and has practically reached iconic status at this point. 

Should win: 1917 or Little Women 

Though I am very likely in the minority on this, I don’t love the score of Joker more than its competitors. In particular, the score of 1917 fomented so much anxiety and stress in me, and Little Women’s music felt exactly like the mood of the ups and downs of sisterhood. I felt the soundtrack played a much more active role in their respective stories. 

Best Cinematography 

Will win: 1917 

This is Roger Deakin’s award to lose. He’s one nearly every proceeding award and is both the critic and fan favorite. Outside of the four acting categories, this is my most locked award of the night. 

Should win: 1917 

Watch any two-second clip of the film and try to disagree with me. 

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Brad Pitt 

Like each of the four acting favorites, Pitt has literally snagged every award he’s been nominated in. His chill, hippie performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is locked to earn him his first Oscar. 

Should win: Tom Hanks

His nuanced, heartwarming, pensive performance in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was my absolute favorite part of the film. In my opinion, it took much more acting chops than Pitt’s role. 

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Laura Dern

What I’m firmly calling Marriage Story’s only win of the night, Laura Dern is all but guaranteed a win. Her portrayal of a snarky divorce lawyer has swept this category all season. 

Should win: Florence Pugh

Even though I thought her superior performance this year was in Midsommar, her portrayal of Amy March in Little Women was the best interpretation of the character I’ve ever seen. Her change in attitude over the course of the film is spectacular. 

Best Lead Actress

Will win: Reneé Zellweger

Her titular role as Judy Garland in Judy, again, like every other acting front runner, has dominated this category. Don’t be surprised when her name is announced. 

Should win: Scarlett Johanson 

Nominated for two Academy Awards this season, Scarlett Johanson in Marriage Story was stunning. It felt real and raw and absolutely broke my heart. It’s truly a shame she won’t win her first Oscar for this.

Best Lead Actor 

Will win: Joaquin Phoenix 

Rounding out one of the most boring years of acting nominations in terms of predictability, this performance in Joker stunned, shocked, awed, and disturbed. Phoenix’s award is guaranteed, no question about it. 

Should win: Joaquin Phoenix 

I was stuck between this and Adam Driver in Marriage Story, but what tipped me over the edge for Phoenix was how absolutely transformative his performance was. He’ll have earned his statue.

Best Director 

Will win: Sam Mendes

I was torn between him and Ho, but after his repeated winning streak at each major award show for 1917, I have to go with Mendes. Additionally, his last win, for his debut with American Beauty in 2000, will have been 20 years ago, awarding him with the longest gap in between directing wins. 

Should win: Sam Mendes

His ability to follow the story of two World War One soldiers so intimately, in what appears to be one continuous take, and without feeling gimmicky is truly impressive. It was a tough job executed beautifully by Mendes. 

Best Picture 

Will win: 1917

Again, I was torn between this and Parasite, but the South Korean film is absolutely guaranteed to win the prize for international film. So, it’s 1917. Starting this year with a surprise win at the Golden Globes before its wide release, it is now the frontrunner. While the top prize tends to shock more than other categories due to its preferential voting style of counting, the film also won at the Producers Guild Awards, the only other award show to count votes for best film this way. 

Should win: 1917

After a second viewing to confirm, I can say this was my favorite movie of the year. It’s themes of human perseverance, commentary about the meaninglessness of war, and technical brilliance combined into one of the most memorable and reactive experiences I’ve had at the movies. It’s absolutely deserving of each award it will win, Best Picture included.