NEW YORK: Ahead of Sunday’s 92nd Academy Awards, Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle shares his predictions for a ceremony with a lot of locks but the potential for a few surprises.
The Nominees: "Ford v Ferrari," "The Irishman," "Jojo Rabbit," "Joker," "Little Women," "Marriage Story," "1917," "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," "Parasite"
Will Win: "Parasite"
Should Win: "Parasite"
Should Have Been a Contender: "The Last Black Man in San Francisco"
The last-arriving contender, Sam Mendes' World War I film "1917," has seemingly, fittingly run away with it. The top-prize winner of the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild and the BAFTAs, "1917" is the clear favorite. That said, I think Bong Joon Ho's universally beloved "Parasite" could pull off an upset that would rank alongside the underdog win of "Moonlight" three years ago. Taking best ensemble from the Screen Actors Guild showed that "Parasite" has perhaps the most important vote in the actors (they make up the largest percentage of the film academy), and academy membership has also grown more international in recent years. The time may be right for the first foreign-language film to win best picture, and "Parasite" deserves it.
The Nominees: Cynthia Erivo, "Harriet"; Scarlett Johansson, "Marriage Story"; Saoirse Ronan, "Little Women"; Charlize Theron, "Bombshell"; Renee Zellweger, "Judy”
Will Win: Renee Zellweger
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan
Should Have Been a Contender: Alfre Woodard, "Clemency"
Zellweger is already a winner for "Cold Mountain" in 2004, but her fragile yet powerhouse performance as Judy Garland in "Judy" is that irresistible thing – a comeback story. The part reverberates with Zellweger's own history. She and Garland are both former American sweethearts. She's a fine choice, but the verve and velocity of Ronan's great performance in "Little Women" shouldn't be overlooked. Formidable as this category is, it would have been better with Woodard's fully inhabited, devastatingly still performance as a prison warden in the spare "Clemency" – not to mention Lupita Nyong'o's ferocious double act in "Us."
The Nominees: 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"
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix
Should Win: Adam Driver
Should Have Been a Contender: Andre Holland, "High Flying Bird"
After several years of lethargy, best actor is the year's most competitive category. The next five options – including Adam Sandler ("Uncut Gems") and Eddie Murphy ("Dolemite Is My Name") – are equally good. Phoenix, like all of this year's acting favorites, has been the clear front-runner for some time, for his morose yet limber Joker. Yet Driver's performance in "Marriage Story" is the real show-stopper here; a more nuanced and rewarding performance that culminates beautifully in song and tears. A shout-out also to the exceptional Holland, whose guileful, fast-talking NBA agent in "High Flying Bird" felt like a thrilling fast break.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The Nominees: Kathy Bates, "Richard Jewell"; Laura Dern, "Marriage Story"; Scarlett Johansson, "Jojo Rabbit"; Florence Pugh, "Little Women"; Margot Robbie, "Bombshell"
Will Win: Laura Dern
Should Win: Laura Dern
Should Have Been a Contender: Zhao Shuzhen, "The Farewell"
Dern has won every precursor award ahead of the Oscars, and is poised to win her first Academy Award. That's cause for celebration. Dern has been one of the finest actresses in Hollywood for decades, and her fearsome divorce attorney in "Marriage Story" is indelible, particularly her fabulous monologue on the double-standards of modern marriage. This category is also missing some worthy actresses, though, including Jennifer Lopez ("Hustlers") and Shuzhen, who played the grandmother unaware of her own cancer diagnosis in Lulu Wang's tender family drama "The Farewell."
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The Nominees: 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"
Will Win: Brad Pitt
Should Win: Brad Pitt
Should Have Been a Contender: Wesley Snipes, "Dolemite Is My Name"
Nothing is more certain this year than Pitt's win for "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," a movie that perfectly showcases Pitt's sly charisma. His march toward his first acting Oscar has been fun, too, in a string of acceptance speeches (thanks to an apparent joke writer helping him out) filled with memorable one-liners. The talent in this category is extraordinary – Pesci or Hanks would win most years – but it's still a shame there wasn't room for Snipes' irresistible prima donna actor-turned-director in "Dolemite Is My Name" or Rob Morgan's powerful death row inmate in "Just Mercy."
The Nominees: Martin Scorsese, "The Irishman"; Todd Phillips, "Joker"; Sam Mendes, "1917"; Quentin Tarantino, "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood"; Bong Joon Ho, "Parasite"
Will Win: Sam Mendes
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
Should Have Been a Contender: Marielle Heller, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"
Mendes appears the favorite here for the technical acumen of his seemingly-one-take "1917." The pristine command of Bong would be a better choice but so would the colossal achievement of Scorsese in "The Irishman." He has won best director only once before. In 2019, Scorsese not only produced a career-crowning masterwork but mounted a passionate defense for the future of cinema. Greta Gerwig deserved to be among the nominees here for her thrillingly vibrant "Little Women," but so did Marielle Heller ("A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"), whose talent with texture, performance and authenticity doesn't announce itself, and can go underappreciated.
The Nominees: "Knives Out," Rian Johnson; "Marriage Story," Noah Baumbach; "1917," Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns; "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," Quentin Tarantino; "Parasite," Bong Joon Ho, Jin Won Han
Will Win: "Parasite"
Should Win: "Marriage Story"
Should Have Been a Contender: "Pain and Glory," Pedro Almodovar
A screenplay win for "Parasite" would signal a real chance for a best-picture victory. Also worthy here are two deeply personal scripts: Baumbach's stirring portrait of divorce "Marriage Story" and Almodovar's unfortunately overlooked "Pain and Glory," a sublime, autobiographical work.
The Nominees: "The Irishman," Steven Zaillian; "Jojo Rabbit," Taika Waititi; "Joker," Todd Phillips, Scott Silver; "Little Women," Greta Gerwig; "The Two Popes," Anthony McCarten
Will Win: "Jojo Rabbit"
Should Win: "Little Women"
Should Have Been a Contender: "The Laundromat," Scott Z. Burns
Waititi's clever, poignant script for the Nazi Germany coming-of-age romp "Jojo Rabbit" appears to have the edge here. There is understandably wide respect for Waititi's idiosyncratic and daring sensibility, yet Gerwig's script inventively pulled apart Louisa May Alcott's much-adapted novel – only to put it back together again.
The Nominees: "American Factory," Julia Rieichert, Steven Bognar; "The Cave," Feras Fayyad; "The Edge of Democracy," Petra Costa; "For Sama," Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts; "Honeyland," Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov
Will Win: "American Factory"
Should Win: "Honeyland"
Should Have Been a Contender: "Maiden," "Rolling Thunder Revue"
The sheer number of great documentaries being made today can hardly be accommodated by one category. Just for starters the snubs here include the uplifting "Maiden," about an all-female crew in a worldwide 1989 yachting race; Scorsese's fiery Dylan documentary "Rolling Thunder Revue" and the enthralling archival project "Apollo 11." "American Factory," the first film released by Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground Productions, is the most likely winner, but "Honeyland," about a singular Macedonia beekeeper, is exquisitely intimate and yet resonates with global environmental allegory.
The Nominees: "Corpus Christi," Jan Komasa; "Honeyland," Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov; "Les Miserables," Ladj Ly; "Pain and Glory," Pedro Almodovar; "Parasite," Bong Joon Ho
Will Win: "Parasite"
Should Win: "Honeyland"
Should Have Been a Contender: "Portrait of a Lady on Fire"
This will be an easy win for "Parasite," with potentially bigger awards to come, but little in this awards season was more disappointing than the lack of attention for Celine Sciamma's "Portrait of a Lady on Fire." The period French romance, my favorite film of 2019, narrowly missed out on being France's submission. (France instead chose the muscular police procedural "Les Miserables.")