Dan's Picks for the 2020 Oscars

Another hostless year. A year where there has been no clear front-runner from start to finish. In Oscars, momentum in everything and right now that belongs to “1917“.

The Eight Major Categories

Best Picture

Its been a year of shifting momentum. From “The Irishman” to” Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and now to “1917”. If “1917” wins, it’s a good choice but not the year’s best movie.

Since the Academy went to as many as 10 nominees, they have switched to a rather convoluted ranked ballot system which can give us unexpected results in this category (Spotlight, Moonlight, Green Book). So even though “1917” is the odds-on fave, don’t at all be surprised if the acclaimed and much-loved (and probably better film) “Parasite” takes top prize and makes Oscar history. “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” and “The Irishman” seem to be out of the race. For the other five movies, the nomination is the award.

Dan’s Pick: “1917”

Best Director

Four of the five could win. Todd Phillips seems to be out. In recent years, its been fashionable to split Picture and Director, with Director going to technical achievement films. “1917” is a great film and a towering technical achievement, so this year, as much as I want Tarantino to win his first and as much as Scorcese deserves a second, Sam Mendes will win for “1917”. A very possible upset here would be Bong-Joon-ho for “Parasite”.  Mendes is not a foregone conclusion. And the direction in “Parasite” is nothing short of brilliant.

Dan’s Pick: Sam Mendes, “1917” (If QT wins, I will be elated!)

All four acting categories seem like foregone conclusions at this point and there are at least three nominees in each category that won’t even prepare a speech. HOWEVER!!! There are often upsets and surprises in these categories just when you think there is no race at all.

Best Actor

Its “Joker’”s to lose. Joaquin Phoenix has won everything up to this point and this really bizarre speech at the Globes has taken a back seat to his really great speech at the SAG awards. (“I stand on the shoulders of my favourite actor, Heath Ledger”). He is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood and if there is one thing they love, it’s a major physical transformation. He’s overdue.

Dan’s Pick: Jouquim Phoenix, “Joker

Best Actress

If there is a second thing the Academy loves, it is playing a real person. I have not seen “Judy” but by all accounts, Renee Zellweger nails it. She has been the front-runner since day one and won everything in the otherwise mediocre movie’s only nomination. That said, last year, Glenn Close was the front-runner from day one for “The Wife” and won everything in the otherwise mediocre movie’s only nomination and on Oscar night, Olivia Coleman pulled off the upset for “The Favourite”. If not Renee, then ScarJo in “Marriage Story”.

Dan’s Pick: Renee Zellweger, “Judy”

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt has swept awards season, basically for playing himself. His character, stuntman Cliff Booth is the anchor of this film (as supporting roles often are for QT) and he plays it well. Its an insanely strong category, all five nominees are previous winners and 30 combined nominations, although Pitt has not won for acting. Possible upset, Joe Pesci for coming out of retirement for a wonderful, understated role as mob boss Russell Buffalino.

Dan’s Pick: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Best Supporting Actress

A weak category this year with more people taking about J-Lo not being nominated rather than who was. Laura Dern’s career is on an upswing, she has prior nominations and is well-liked. I see this as once of three or four mortal locks. Laura is easily the best thing in this movie.

Dan’s pick: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”

Original Screenplay

Two-way race for two truly original scripts. QT for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Bong Joon-ho for “Parasite”. Two of the best movies of the year. This one’s a coin toss, but I see Quentin Picking up his third screenplay Oscar.

Dan’s pick: Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Adapted Screenplay

There some controversy of Greta Gerwig being left out of Best Director (and Todd Phillips being included). I am amongst “JoJo Rabbit”’s detractors. I get it, I just don’t think it was well executed. This seems to be a two-way, deadlocked race. Coin toss. I am going with Greta. Possible upset for very popular Taika Waititi for Jojo.

Dan’s pick: Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”

The Consolation Prizes

Best Animated Feature

Sequels have done shockingly poor since this category was announced and “Toy Story 3” already won. That said, with “The Lion King” remake left out, I can’t see how “Toy Story 4” does not win here. Its such a wonderful movie. “I Lost My Body” is also well loved and “Klaus” won the Golden Globes. “Toy Story 4” is the safe choice but by no means a lock.

Dan’s pick: “Toy Story 4”

Best Film Editing

1917” is a favourite to sweep top awards and technical awards but it not nominated here. That’s really odd, if you find these things odd like I do. “Ford v. Ferrari” has car race scene where, without skilled editing, it becomes a mess. “Parasite” and “The Irishman” have really amazing stories, skillfully edited. Watch the closing act of “Parasite” to see an example of incredible editing as they bring the plot lines to a conclusion. Coin toss here but …

Dan’s Pick: Jinmo Yang, “Parasite

Best Cinematography

Robert Richardson has filmed 9 Best Picture nominees. But I don’t think this is the year for this 4th win. Not a bad choice in the lot, all deserving. However, my favourite living Cinematographer elevated the single shot illusion past in “1917” from being a neat trick to an all-encompassing and visceral experience.

Dan’s Pick: Roger Deakins, “1917”

Best Costume Design

Tough call this year. Period Piece (“Little Women”) or War Movie (“1917” or “Jojo Rabbit”). As much as I love “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, Brad Pitt’s Champion spark plug-shirt does not deserve an Oscar.

Dan’s Pick: “Little Women”

Best Art Direction

Three strong potential winners here. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” for re-creating the city and set of 1969 Hollywood. “Parasite” where every set piece was built for the film. “1917” which strikingly re-creates trench warfare. Tough call.

Dan’s Pick: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Best Hair and Make-Up

This category expanded to five nominees this year. The crowning achievement seems to be turning Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly and John Lithgow into Roger Ailes.

Dan’s Pick: “Bombshell”

Best Original Score

The music from “Joker” did not stand out all that much to me. I will have to give it another listen next time I see it. But it seems to be a mortal lock. I am not sure, may be the first woman to win in this category. Certainly, the first Icelandic composer.

Dan’s Pick: Hildur Guanadottir, “Joker”

Best Original Song

Rocketman” deserved a couple of more nominations, especially for Lead Taron Egerton. (I won’t go into how much better he was than Mr. Robot as Freddie). Elton has an Oscar for The Lion King and is well loved.  This would make his long-time writing partner an Oscar winner too.

Dan’s Pick: Elton John and Bernie Taupin, “I am Gonna Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”

Foreign Language Film

Mortal Lock

Dan’s Pick: “Parasite” (South Korea)

The Technical Categories

Visual Effects

De-Aging? CGI Lions? Space Battles? Superheroes? Battle Scenes? Every one of these movies is completely dependent on Visual effects in every last shot and they are all great. But “1917” seems poised for a sweep in these categories.

Dan’s Pick: “1917”

Sound Effects Editing

See above!

Dan’s pick: “1917”

Best Sound

See above and above

Dan’s Pick: “1917”

The Educated Guesses, literally. I have seen none. Going by Oscar pick sites.

Documentary Feature: American Factory

Documentary Short : Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl)

Live Action Short: Brotherhood

Animated Short: Hair Love