With 2019 in the rearview, we’ve survived another year as well as another decade. We’re now in the roaring 20’s, but there’s still time to celebrate the 2019’s year in film.

There were a slew of outstanding entries, which again means there are happy artists mixed with many more who are disappointed (even downright angry) being snubbed.

The Academy Awards is again mired in never ending controversy – there are no women nominated for best director, despite strong candidates available like Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Alma Har’el (Honey Boy), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) and Lulu Wang (The Farewell), just to name a few.

In Oscar history, only FIVE women have been nominated for directing: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird). Of the five, Bigelow is the only one to win.

Adding to the lack of diversity is the fact that this year only two non-white actors were nominated in the acting categories (out of a potential 20 nominees only 10% are non-white). Those two are veteran Antonio Banderas (Pain & Glory) and relative newcomer Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), both first-time nominees. The lack of diversity is ongoing and thus increasingly troubling since it seemed as if diversity was growing (a tad) before now.

On a lighter note, the Oscars will go without a host, its second consecutive year doing so. Last year’s program flowed more smoothly, so hopefully that trend can continue while shaving valuable minutes off its epically lengthy running times.

Finally, the awards are being presented earlier in the year; usually the Oscar ceremony is held at the end of February/early Mach. The shorter timetable may result in some early-released films entries losing momentum (like The Irishman), while late entries may gain timely momentum (or no momentum at all). Sam Mendes’ WWI film 1917 has benefited from the short turnaround, earning 10 Oscar nominations and already winning big at other awards houses.

So tune in February 9th and watch the Academy pat themselves on their backs for the 92nd time. Maybe something wacky will happen, like when Moonlight won over La La Land after Warren Beatty’s announcement gaffe, which is something I personally root for with live television!

Best Picture

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

1917

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Parasite

My favorite film on this impressive list is Parasite. It’s original, thought-provoking, suspenseful, funny and shocking, sometimes all at once. There are great performances across the board and director Bong Joon-ho does an exceptional job displaying his vision of today’s social climate while incorporating multiple genres.

Parasite, with 6 nominations, is a frontrunner, having won Best Film not in the English Language at BAFTA, Best Foreign-Language Film at the Golden Globes and stunning everyone by winning Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at SAG. We’ll see if they can prevail because the Academy has never awarded a foreign film Best Picture and there are a few legit contenders.

The Irishman has 10 nominations and is an exclamation point at the end of Martin Scorsese’s career. But despite garnering a huge amount of nominations, the biopic gangster drama went home empty at BAFTA, Globes and SAG. Its momentum is gone, although it has a small chance at winning Best Picture.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has a shot for two reasons – it’s directed by Oscar winner Quentin Tarantino and it’s set during old Hollywood. Regarding the latter, the Academy fawns for films that celebrate Hollywood’s Golden Age (besides, it’s just another form of self-congratulation on the Academy’s part). QT is the consummate cinephile who’s always referenced past films and that may pay off nicely Sunday. It won at the Globes for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical and Best Screenplay, so it has a better chance than The Irishman.

1917 is the clear frontrunner. It’s been cleaning up during awards season, winning Best British Film and Best Film at BAFTA, Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes, the DGA and PGA. That momentum will likely carry over to the Oscars; we’ll see if it actually happens.

There is a darkhorse – Joker could pull a Green Book and flip everything on its head. It only won for Best Original Score at the Golden Globes, but its runaway box office success ($1.072 billion globally) and 11 Oscar nominations are a sign (like 2018’s Black Panther) that comic book films are finally award-worthy. In my opinion, without winning at other award houses, this is a true long shot. But I won’t count Joker out until the announcement.

Darkhorse: Joker

Who I Like: Parasite

Who I Think: 1917

Best Director

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Todd Phillips, Joker

Sam Mendes, 1917

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Parasite, Bong Joon-ho

This is a fantastic list of contenders and, at first glance, it’d normally be a toss-up. But having won at BAFTA, DGA and Golden Globes means Sam Mendes is nearly a lock. His work on 1917 is fantastic since he and cinematographer Roger Deakins joined forces to create a story that looks like one continuous shot for 119 minutes. That’s impressive work and is more than just a gimmick since it comes with a time-sensitive story full of danger and tension at every turn and strong acting across the board.

Using that rationale, the only person besides Mendes with a shot is Bong Joon-ho. Parasite won the Palme D’or at Cannes way back in May 2019, but that festival doesn’t directly factor into Oscar voting.

There may be some love for Tarantino, whom I already mentioned made a movie that celebrates old Hollywood. He’s a longshot and the Academy may likely award him Best Original Screenplay instead. The Academy seemingly likes him more as a screenwriter; he’s won Best Original Screenplay twice, for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained.

Darkhorse: Quentin Tarantino

Who I Like: Bong Joon Ho

Who I Think: Sam Mendes

Best Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Nine times out of ten I would pick ScarJo as the winner. Having also earned a Best Actress nod, she is just the 12th double-nominee for acting in the same year in Oscar history, putting in equally mature performances that displayed range and depth. As a Best Supporting Actress nominee she’s a darkhorse – her Marriage Story co-star Laura Dern has been collecting hardware almost everywhere.

Dern provided a subtle, yet impressive, performance in the subtle, yet impressive, Marriage Story. Winning at BAFTA, Golden Globes and SAG leaves her way ahead approaching the finish line.

Personally, I’m impressed with Florence Pugh. In Little Women she was able to make Amy March less irritating (even endearing) than I remember, and that’s despite Amy burning up Jo’s book! Pugh may be back for future Oscars, so this year her reward is the nomination.

Darkhorse: ScarJo

Who I Like: Florence Pugh

Who I Think: Laura Dern

Best Supporting Actor

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

Just like Dern, Brad Pitt has been cleaning up during in the awards circuit. He’s won at BAFTA and SAG, but oddly he’s never won an acting Oscar. That will change come February 9th and hopefully viewers will get another great speech full of hilarious jokes (check out the one he gave at SAG; then he wrote another hilarious speech which Hollywood co-star Margot Robbie read aloud at BAFTA). Who knew Brad was such a joker?

Simply put, there are no contenders for Best Supporting Actor outside of Pitt. If he doesn’t win it would be a major shock. But for the sake of keeping things interesting, 2-time Oscar winner (for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump) Tom Hanks always has a fighting chance.

Darkhorse: Tom Hanks

Who I Like: Brad Pitt

Who I Think: Brad Pitt

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renee Zellweger, Judy

Renee Zellweger took a 6-year hiatus from acting and quietly made her return in 2016. Her retrun will be completed when she picks up her second Oscar (her first was in 2004 for her supporting role in Cold Mountain) for her performance as Judy Garland in Judy.

Supporting that prediction is the fact she, too, has been racking up wins the last couple of months. Zellweger has taken home a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and a SAG. There’s no stopping her and she will grace the stage as a Best Actress winner.

Darkhorse: none, maybe Scarlett Johansson

Who I Like: Renee Zellweger

Who I Think: Renee Zellweger

Best Actor

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

If everything goes according to plan, 4-time Oscar nominee (including this year) Joaquin Phoenix will win. As Arthur Fleck in Joker, Phoenix was able to transform into the titular maniacal supervillain, all while commenting on today’s mental health state. It’s his flashiest and most indelible role (but oddly not his best) because it feels so genuine and shocking.

Awards voters must agree since Phoenix won at BAFTA, Golden Globes and SAG. He is a lock, but if there was to be an upset first-time Oscar nominee Antonio Banderas (Best Actor winner at Cannes) could sneak in as a darkhorse with soulful and deeply emotional performance.

Darkhorse: Antonio Banderas

Who I Like: Antonio Banderas

Who I Think: Joaquin Phoenix


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