Oscars predictions: Who's nominated, who should win and who will win

Echo writer Timothy Xayasomloth shares his predictions for the 2020 Academy Awards

Ahh, the Academy Awards. For film nerds like myself, this is our March Madness; our Super Bowl. It is full of triumphs, disappointments, and if we’re lucky, memorable moments that will create memes for years to come. 

"Joker" leads the pack with 11 nominations; "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," "1917" and "The Irishman" follow closely with 10 nominations each. The ceremony is no stranger to controversy, and for the second year in a row has come under fire for not including any women directors in the Best Director category. 

The question is: Who will win on Feb. 9? Will "Joker" set a new precedent for comic book movies? Netflix original movies lead the nominations but will they get shut out by the voters of the Academy? We will find out on Sunday, but for right now, here are my personal picks and predictions for the 2020 Academy Awards.

Best Picture Nominees:

  • “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
  • “The Irishman.”
  • “Parasite.”
  • “1917.”
  • “Marriage Story.”
  • “Jojo Rabbit.”
  • “Joker.”
  • “Little Women.”
  • “Ford v Ferrari.”

Will Win: "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood."

Should Win: "Parasite."

Let me just say that I thought "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" was a good film, and it has all the ingredients that Oscar voters love: a star-studded cast, great production design and a story that revolves around the magic of the film industry. There’s nothing that the Academy Awards love more than movies that show how great Hollywood is. 

However, "Parasite" is a once in a lifetime film that could set a new standard for foreign films in Hollywood should it take home the prestigious award. It has already made history by becoming the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or with a rare unanimous vote at the Cannes Film Festival.

Best Director Nominees:

  • Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman.”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
  • Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite.”
  • Sam Mendes, “1917.”
  • Todd Phillips, "Joker.”

Will Win: Martin Scorsese.

Should Win: Sam Mendes.

This is probably the most controversial category of this year as it includes no women filmmakers despite strong works from Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) and Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”). 

Martin Scorsese is a familiar face to the Academy, and the cynicism in me believes that they would pick him as a “safe” pick. However, when I think of the “best direction,” I think about the scope and vision of a film. Sam Mendes’ "1917" was a very ambitious project on both a technical and story level, but it pays off as he delivers a heart-wrenching but thrilling film. 

Nominees for Best Actress in a Lead Role: 

  • Renée Zellweger, “Judy.”
  • Charlize Theron, “Bombshell.”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story.”
  • Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women.”
  • Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet.”

Will Win: Renée Zellweger.

Should Win: Saoirse Ronan.

Why Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”) isn’t on this list is beyond me! Renée Zellweger shines in an otherwise mediocre biopic.  At only 25 years old, Saoirse Ronan becomes a four-time Oscar nominee, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Academy will finally award her the trophy. 

Charlize Theron also has a good chance of winning for undergoing the physical transformation to accentuate her strong performance as former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

Nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker.”
  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story.”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
  • Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory.”
  • Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes.”

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix.

Should Win: Adam Driver.

This is a close race; Joaquin Phoenix is the frontrunner because of his win at the Golden Globes, but honestly anything can happen. 

Adam Driver did deliver my favorite performance of last year due to his heart-wrenching portrayal of pain, hopelessness and confusion, but I’m secretly rooting for Antonio Banderas, who is the underdog in a very stacked category. My hope is that this will be the start of a renaissance for his career.

Nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
  • Al Pacino, “The Irishman.”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman.”
  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
  • Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes.”

Will Win: Brad Pitt.

Should Win: Joe Pesci.

This could very well be Joe Pesci’s last performance after coming out of retirement due to Martin Scorsese’s numerous requests, and he went out with a bang. 

However, Brad Pitt has been nominated numerous times and I think this could be the year that they will finally give him the elusive award. There’s really no wrong pick in this category, but Netflix is the real winner with three out of the five nominees being from Netflix original movies such as "The Irishman" and "The Two Popes."

Nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story.”
  • Margot Robbie, “Bombshell.”
  • Florence Pugh, “Little Women.”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit.”
  • Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell.”

Will Win: Laura Dern.

Should Win: Laura Dern.

I’ve never hated a character more this year than when I saw Nora Fanshaw on the screen, which is exactly why Laura Dern rightfully deserves the Oscar this year. 

She steals every scene she’s in as a ruthless lawyer that will always fight to get the last word in. Contrast her performance in "Marriage Story" with "Little Women," you can clearly see that she is the front-runner.

Best Animated Feature Film Nominees:

  • “Toy Story 4.”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.”
  • “Missing Link.”
  • “I Lost My Body.”
  • “Klaus.”

Will Win: Toy Story 4.

Should Win: I Lost My Body.

This was a weak year for animated films, but "I Lost My Body" was a pleasant surprise that had a great reception at Cannes. 

It does what no other film in the category did — take an artistic risk to tell a unique story about grief and depression that has me thinking about it even months after I’ve seen it. However, the odds are stacked against it because it is a foreign film and too adult for the Academy that has historically believed animation should be strictly for children. 

Best Original Screenplay Nominees:

  • “Marriage Story.”
  • “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
  • “Parasite.”
  • “Knives Out.”
  • “1917.”

Will Win: 1917.

Should Win: Parasite.

I love this category because it reminds me that, in a world full of remakes and sequels, there are still fresh stories that capture the attention of moviegoers and critics. "1917" has the upper hand because it tells the most palpable story to a general audience through the familiar "hero's journey" and realistic setting — the midst of World War I. 

However,  "Knives Out" was just so much fun, and turned the mystery genre upside down.  Meanwhile, "Parasite" is in a league of its own; I’ve honestly never seen a story like it, that is able to shift tones so seamlessly and lead up to an unforgettable third act, in any medium before. 

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:

  • “The Irishman.”
  • “Jojo Rabbit.”
  • “Little Women.”
  • “The Two Popes.”
  • “Joker.”

Will Win: Little Women.

Should Win: Little Women.

Let me just say that I LOVED "Little Women," and if Greta Gerwig isn’t getting the Oscar for Best Director then I’ll settle for this category. Unlike the other nominees that only incorporated bits and pieces of their source material into the final product, Gerwig fully embraces the popular coming-of-age novel while adding her own personal flair,  creating more layers for an already strong narrative about womanhood and independence.

No matter what happens on Feb. 9, we must remember that the Academy Awards are a celebration of all the great films that came out in the past year. Whether or not your picks are correct, that doesn’t erase the fact that this was one of the strongest years for cinema that we’ve had in a while. 

Correction: Due to editor error the date in the illustration was updated.

Reach the reporter at txayasom@asu.edu and follow @its_tim_x on Twitter.

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