Hollywood’s version of The Super Bowl is this weekend. The Academy Awards, now in its 92nd year, will once again go without a host but is jam packed with presenters from Gal Gadot to Shia LaBeouf and even Keanu Reeves.
It’s also the second year in a row we have a nail-biting race for best picture.
The dueling frontrunners have been narrowed to the technological British war epic “1917” (boasting 10 nominations) versus Bong Joon-Ho’s South Korean international hit “Parasite” (six nominations). Both films have won major industry and non-industry prizes, yet both have major hurdles to overcome and will break stat records no matter who wins.
After winning the Producers Guild and Directors Guild awards, Sam Mendes’ war film, edited to look like a single take, claimed the lead in the Oscar best-picture race. If it wins Sunday, it would be the first film released in December to win since “Million Dollar Baby” in 2005.
It also would be only the second film in recent time to win best picture without an editing nomination (“Birdman” did that back in 2015). Not since “The Lord of the Rings” (2004) won best picture has a movie without any acting nominations taken the top prize.
“Parasite” has a bigger hurdle to overcome: No foreign film (non-English) has ever won best picture. “Roma” came close last year, but “Parasite” is far more of a box office hit and beloved film.
Nabbing the Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble (despite also having no acting nominations), not to mention a standing ovation when the cast introduced their film, shows the type of support that helped “Moonlight” squeeze in the upset in 2017.
My prediction is that we get another picture/director split as we have for the past few years. “Parasite” will become the first foreign film to claim best picture, while director Sam Mendes wins his second directing trophy. Obviously “Parasite” will win best international film as well.
HIM OR HER
Arguably the second most suspenseful category of the night will come in adapted screenplay.
Greta Gerwig was snubbed for best director, but she is nominated for adapting the screenplay for “Little Women.” Most expected the Ben Affleck effect to work in her favor. When Affleck was famously snubbed for director back in 2012, it guaranteed “Argo” a win for best picture, since that would also put a statue in Affleck’s hand (he was also a producer).
However, Gerwig’s main competition, Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”), was also snubbed for best director and picked up two screenplay wins over the past week (Writers Guild of America and British Academy or BAFTA).
The same thing happened in original screenplay in 2018 when Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) won the WGA and then the Oscar, beating out Gerwig, who was nominated for “Lady Bird.”
Original Screenplay is also a race between Bong Joon Ho and Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino has already won this category twice in the past and made it clear this award season he wanted to win director and not another screenplay trophy. “Parasite” won the WGA (Tarantino wasn’t eligible) but then solidified its lead, winning original screenplay at BAFTA over the weekend.
Aside from the best picture race, the acting categories are going to be a yawn fest with the same four actors crossing the finish line we have seen all season.
Laura Dern, Brad Pitt, Renee Zellweger and Joaquin Phoenix have gone unchallenged at the major televised award shows. Pitt, Dern and Phoenix will all pick up their first acting Oscar, and Zellweger’s stunning portrayal of Judy Garland will be her second and, in a way, finally give Garland an Oscar win.
The suspense of this years’ award show will be in the speeches and the technical categories.
While I am predicting “Parasite” to pull another surprise win in film editing, that race is wide open with “1917” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” missing from the list. It could easily go to “Ford v. Ferrari,” matching its presumptive wins in Sound Editing and Sound mixing, or perhaps film editing provides “The Irishman” with a single win.
Otherwise, the Martin Scorsese crime flick will go home empty-handed.
Whether it wins best picture or not, “1917,” the year’s big technical achievement, will walk away with the most wins. Production Design is a fairly safe bet (the flaming church sequence is not something you forget).
Cinematography is the most predictable win for “1917” in any category. Visual Effects has been an open race until last week’s BAFTA basically pointed out that “1917’s” practical visual effects are more impressive than the other more fantastical nominees.
However, visual effects isn’t the category you want to put a bunch of money on. “The Lion King” certainly has “the most visual” effects.
Another milestone is if composer Hildur Gunadóttir wins Original Score for “Joker,” making her only the third solo female composer to win that category. “Little Women” might have to settle for the costume award, unless “Jojo Rabbit” nabs that. Non-best picture nominee “Harriet” looks to pick up best song, while “Bombshell” is another slam-dunk prediction for makeup/hair.
The Oscars will air live at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC.