Ramsey: Oscar predictions 2020

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1917 is widely expected to sweep the night’s top two awards, but our Editor-in-Chief Abby Ann Ramsey explains why Parasite and director Bong Joon Ho are more deserving of the Oscars.

Abby Ann Ramsey, Editor-in-Chief

Each and every year of film brings a remarkably different array of stories than the last. The same is true for 2019, as it was another momentous year in the industry. 

According to The New York Times, 10 percent of the top 100 movies of 2019 were directed by women, doubling the percentage from 2018. Additionally, films with diverse casts like Hustlers, The Farewell, and Parasite performed extremely well at the box office. Despite these groundbreaking moments of 2019, this year’s Oscars nominations were extremely divisive as they primarily recognized white males in the film industry. This Sunday’s 92nd Academy Awards are already expected to be controversial.

Nonetheless, the films up for awards this year are undeniably great and feature veteran directors as well as some newcomers, at least to the American scene.

With so many equally great films, it’s difficult to predict how Sunday’s awards will go. Will the popular Joker sweep like it did at the Golden Globes? Will it mark a point where Hollywood will finally begin to recognize foreign films with Parasite becoming the first one to ever win Best Picture? Will Little Women be recognized in acting and writing categories after Greta Gerwig’s major directing snub? It’s impossible to say for sure. Nevertheless, here are my predictions for six of the categories. 

Best Picture

Nominees: 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Parasite

What Will Win: 1917

What Should Win: Parasite

Set during World War I, 1917 follows two British soldiers on a harrowing mission to deliver an urgent message that could save hundreds of lives. Seemingly filmed all in one take and featuring some jaw-dropping scenes, it’s a technical masterpiece. What it does not do, however, is deliver some sort of message that leaves viewers thinking about it for days. 

Parasite, a South Korean film about a lower-class family simply trying to make ends meet until things takes an unexpectedly violent turn for the worse, delivers a message about wealth inequality and the downfalls of materialistic desires that I have yet to go a day without thinking about since seeing it. With an unforgettable screenplay, incredible use of symbolism, and perhaps some of the best performances of the year, it is a shame that Parasite might lose to the extremely impressive, but seemingly empty 1917 that has already taken home top praises from the Directors Guild and Producers Guild. 

Parasite is, however, the next frontrunner behind 1917, so there is still a little bit of hope that the Academy will finally award a non-English movie with the coveted title of Best Picture. In a year dominated by nominations for white, male filmmakers, this would be a momentous occasion that would also hopefully encourage the Academy to continue to nominate foreign films that offer perspectives outside of the classic American ones. 

Best Director

Nominees: Sam Mendes, 1917; Martin Scorsese, The Irishman; Todd Phillips, Joker; Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood; Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

Who Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917

Who Should Win: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite 

Again, a win for Sam Mendes in this category would be much deserved for the visible effort he put in to making a movie so beautiful, yet so tragic as 1917 is. His direction of the film, however, may at this point be worn out as it seems that it is more of a grand showcase of talent and ability than other films that came out last year. In fact, this category leaves out some incredible and innovative direction that values character development and story arcs such as Greta Gerwig’s in Little Women and Marielle Heller’s in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. If we lived in a perfect world of fair nominations, Gerwig would have been nominated and would easily deserve the win even over veteran directors Scorsese and Tarantino.

Speaking of Scorsese and Tarantino, it may seem surprising to say that Bong Joon Ho should take the victory. Parasite truly brings something to this category that has never before been seen, while The Irishman and Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, despite being two of my favorite movies of the year, come across simply as additions to the directors’ long list of cinematic accomplishments. Bong Joon Ho and Greta Gerwig bring fresh voices to the Academy and their names should not get lost in the mix of these well-established, impressive directors.

Best Actor 

Nominees: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker; Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory; Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood; Adam Driver, Marriage Story; Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Who Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Who Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

One of the few movies nominated that I have yet to see, Joker has been acclaimed for its portrayal of how the popular character was driven to a life of devastatingly evil crime. While it has been praised, it has also been one of the most divisive films of the year for reasons that would take paragraphs to explain. What I will say, however, is that the Academy is constantly applauding actors and actresses who make drastic physical transformations to play either nonfictional characters, or in this year’s case, a character that has already been portrayed in many movies.

For example, Gary Oldman put on some weight to play Winston Churchill in the 2017 biopic Darkest Hour and although he gave a great performance, he beat out nominees like Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name and Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out who did not have a historical figure to compare their acting to. Perhaps it is more impressive when actors and actresses can create their character only with the script handed to them and without the support systems that are historical documents or the already incredible performances of past Jokers, like the late Heath Ledger’s in The Dark Knight – for which he won Best Supporting Actor posthumously. 

With that being said, this is an extremely tough category to choose a favorite as Adam Driver gives a controversial, but emotional performance in Marriage Story and Jonathan Pryce brings everyone to tears in the underrated The Two Popes. Leonardo DiCaprio, however, gives one of his best performances of his career as the struggling TV star Rick Dalton who lives next door to actress Sharon Tate, a real victim of the followers of the infamous Charles Manson.

Best Actress

Nominees: Renée Zellweger, Judy; Cynthia Erivo, Harriet; Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story; Saoirse Ronan, Little Women; Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Who Will Win: Renée Zellweger, Judy

Who Should Win: Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Judy really slid under the radar in every category but this one. For her acclaimed performance of Judy Garland, Zellweger has already received the SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice awards, just to name a few, so she is almost a shoo-in for the Oscar. I don’t doubt her acting abilities, yet it is a shame that Saoirse Ronan will have yet another performance go unrecognized after losing this category for her work in Brooklyn and Lady Bird and losing the Best Supporting Actress category for Atonement at only 12 years old.

Ronan is one of my favorite actresses of all time, and Lady Bird is one of my favorite movies, but her portrayal of Jo March in Little Women is perhaps the best work she has ever done. Jo March is unyielding in her opinions, extremely independent, overly protective of her family, and passionate about her writing. Simply stating her traits may make her come across as a harsh, blunt teenage girl, yet Ronan’s performance keeps Jo’s original character intact while giving her a kind and loving spirit.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood; Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes; Al Pacino, The Irishman; Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Who Will Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Who Should Win: Al Pacino, The Irishman

Perhaps the most stacked category at the Oscars this year (along with Best Adapted Screenplay), the list of nominees features some of the most experienced and beloved actors of all time. A win for any of them would be well-deserved, as each and every one of them gave a great performance, so it’s extremely hard to choose a favorite. 

Pitt undeniably is a standout in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, but his performance frankly does not live up to either Pesci or Pacino in The Irishman. Pacino plays head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Jimmy Hoffa. Pacino portrays Hoffa as extremely intimidating and even a dangerous person to be around, but by the end of the movie, he makes it clear that he was simply looking for someone to trust, easily gaining viewers’ sympathy. 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Laura Dern, Marriage Story; Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell; Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit; Florence Pugh, Little Women; Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Who Will Win: Florence Pugh, Little Women

Who Should Win: Florence Pugh, Little Women

In my favorite performance of the year, Florence Pugh pegs the character of Amy March, who is normally exhibited as a selfish, annoying younger sister. In Gerwig’s adaptation, however, Pugh redeems Amy’s character by jumping from the bothersome 13-year-old version to an older, wiser version of herself that simply wants to be happy, but not at the expense of the people she loves. In one scene, Amy is destroying a novel that her older sister Jo worked tirelessly on, but just a few minutes later she gives the best monologue of the year about how although it is unfair for her to have to choose wealth over love, it is the only way for a woman like her to make a life for herself and support her family whom she puts before everything else. 

Her performance is unparalleled, and she deserves the Oscar over anyone else in the category. Laura Dern, however, is predicted by some to win at the moment. Although I view Dern as a distant mother and think she deserves every award in the world, her performance in Marriage Story is not nearly as dynamic or breathtaking as Pugh’s in Little Women

The 92nd Academy Awards are this Sunday at 8 p.m. Click here to view the full list of nominees and cast your own ballot.