Who’s In, Who’s Out

My Take On the 2020 Oscar Nominations


Photo by pixabay user kalhh

The biggest night in Hollywood will be aired on February 9.

So, the Oscar nominations came out on Monday. Unfortunately, like all of us, I was stuck in school at the time of the announcements, but I was able to stay away from social media for the whole day so I could have a genuine reaction. To be honest, it’s safe to say that I’m a little disappointed. Sure, there were lots of nominations that I agreed with, but there were also quite a few that I disagreed with, and a few snubs that made me question reality. So, sit back, grab some popcorn, and let’s dive right into the 2020 Oscar Nominations.


Best Picture:

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit


Little Women

Marriage Story


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


Immediate Reaction: The Best Picture category turned out almost exactly as I expected. It’s great to see 1917, Hollywood and Parasite, the three movies who are our most likely winners. I wasn’t expecting Jojo Rabbit or Little Women to find their way in, but all the better for it. But, let’s talk about Joker. Best Picture? Really? Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s a good movie, with one of the best performances of the decade from surefire winner Joaquin Phoenix. But, is it the best movie of the year? Not even close. Also, where is Rocketman? The Oscars are notoriously forgetful when it comes to movies that come out in the earlier part of the year, but I wasn’t expecting a movie that had built up so much steam during the awards season to be shoved away. The Oscars even had room for a tenth nominee, but I guess they want people to be mad.

Who Will (and Should) Win: 1917

Despite the fact that I gave Ad Astra my top spot on my Best of 2019 list, 1917 might be even better, which is saying quite a lot. Now, I don’t just like this film because of the one-shot technique, which, thanks to Roger Deakins’ gorgeous cinematography, is brilliant. This is genuinely an amazing movie. After Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opened strong with Best Picture wins at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards, many experts, myself included, expected that Tarantino would walk away with Best Picture at the Oscars. However, the Sam Mendes-directed epic has roared to life in the past few weeks, with a win at the Golden Globes for Best Picture – Drama, and Best Motion Picture at the Producers Guild of America, which has accurately predicted 21 of the last 30 Best Picture winners. This could genuinely happen, and I don’t think Hollywood or Parasite, the early front-runners, have a prayer.


Best Actor:

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

Immediate Reaction: Where is Taron Egerton? After giving one of the best performances of the year as Elton John, and after winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, many, including myself, expected Taron to lock up one of the nominations in the Oscars. But, instead of giving him his first nomination, the Oscars went with Jonathan Pryce instead, which I don’t understand. Also, George Mackay in 1917 had no chance of a nomination, but it would’ve been awesome if he had gotten that fifth spot. Other than that, I like most of these picks. Phoenix was undeniably incredible as Arthur Fleck, and it’s one of the few awards Joker has a fighting chance. However, don’t count Driver and DiCaprio out just yet. Sure, the award is Phoenix’s to lose, but Driver was remarkable in Marriage Story, and DiCaprio found a way to showcase some surprisingly great comedic chops as Rick Dalton. Both have a very small chance of an upset, but I can’t see either of them winning.

Who Will (and Should) Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Do I need to say anything else about this performance? Nope. Has everyone probably already seen the movie? Yep. Will he win? No doubt about it.


Best Actress:

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renee Zellweger, Judy

Immediate Reaction: Let’s go through the negatives first. So, Lupita Nyong’o gave the best performance of the entire year for an actress in Us, but it’s a horror movie, so of course, it didn’t get nominated. Nevermind that Jordan Peele’s last movie, Get Out, got nominated several times, and even won Best Original Screenplay. Nevermind that Lupita’s already won for 12 Years a Slave, and that the Oscars love to nominate people who have already won. Whatever. Aside from that, the category is fairly straightforward. Zellweger will definitely sweep the awards season, with her first Oscar in 16 years, and deservedly so. Her performance as Judy Garland is heartbreaking, in a good way, and although Johansson gives the performance of her career in Marriage Story, Zellweger’s name is already on the envelope.

Who Will (and Should) Win: Renee Zellweger, Judy

Although Judy didn’t get much attention from the Oscars, that shouldn’t affect Zellweger’s chances. Her wins at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards have made her the clear front-runner, and I can’t see anyone else getting in the way.


Best Supporting Actor:

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

Immediate Reaction: This may come as a surprise, but I have nothing against any of the nominees here. I’m so happy to see Tom Hanks here, with his first Oscar nomination since Cast Away, 20 years ago. However, I can’t see a feel-good role winning at a ceremony as cynical as the Oscars. Pacino and Pesci are both great in The Irishman, but the problem with having two nominees from the same movie is the danger of cancelling each other out. And since Hopkins hasn’t won anything, that leaves one nominee left.

Who Will (and Should) Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The last 15 minutes of Hollywood alone should have Pitt earning his first Oscar. He somehow manages to steal every scene he’s in, and has all of the best lines. But, what’s even more surprising is that Pitt isn’t simply relying on charisma here. He’s genuinely acting, and doing a great job of it.


Best Supporting Actress:

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Immediate Reaction: Where is Jennifer Lopez? For the entirety of the awards season, Lopez has been neck-and-neck with Laura Dern for Best Supporting Actress, matching her every step. Now, it’s just Dern, all by herself in the lead. It’s honestly a miracle that Kathy Bates got nominated, due to being a dark horse since the release of Richard Jewell in November. I can’t see Robbie posing any threat, and while Johansson’s double nomination is really something, she probably doesn’t have much of a chance either. This will come down to Dern and Florence Pugh, who I wasn’t expecting to be nominated, but Dern has swept every award. This should be hers for the taking.

Who Will (and Should) Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

It takes unparalleled talent to make a divorce lawyer likable, and Dern pulls it off with one of the best performances of the year from any actor or actress. Despite the fact that I came to hate that character at times, she would always say something or act a certain way that would make her seem likable again. Couple this with Little Women, and Dern should cap off a brilliant 2019 with her first Oscar.

Best Director:

Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Sam Mendes, 1917

Todd Phillips, Joker

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Immediate Reaction: How in the world did Todd Phillips get in? Before the 13th, many expected Little Women’s Greta Gerwig to lock up the fifth spot. Instead, we have the director of a movie that borrowed most of its story elements from classic Scorsese movies, most notably Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. That being said, not a single woman was nominated in the Best Director category. Not Greta Gerwig for Little Women. Not Marielle Heller, the director of the excellent A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Whatever. I do like most of the nominees here, however. Mendes, Scorsese and Tarantino were obvious picks, with Scorsese’s Irishman being an early contender for the major awards. However, The Irishman has lost a considerable amount of steam in every category, and Phillips’s chances are slim-to-none. I believe the award will come down to Mendes, Tarantino and Bong Joon-Ho, whose nomination should please many cinephiles, such as myself.

Who Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917

As if 2014’s Birdman didn’t prove this already, the Oscars love one-shot movies, and as if I haven’t proved this already, the Oscars love to play follow-the-leader. Mendes has won Best Director at the Golden Globes, and tied with Bong Joon-Ho at the Critics’ Choice. His awards success this year, and his past success at the Oscars with American Beauty, should lead him on the road to victory.

Who Should Win: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

As much as I loved 1917, directing a one-shot film should not automatically convert to a Best Director award. It should go to the director whose craft was undeniably on display in every frame, which makes Bong Joon-Ho a deserving candidate. After only three months, Parasite has been lauded by many critics as one of the best films of the decade, and so much of this is due to Joon-Ho, a phenomenal director who should finally receive the attention he has deserved for a decade. However, don’t count Tarantino out. The Pulp Fiction director has failed to win a Best Directing Oscar so far, and time could be running out for the Academy to reward him. He’s recently stated that he wishes to retire after making his tenth film. That’s right. Unless he changes his mind, we’re one film away from losing a cinematic master. It would be great to see him finally win for his most Oscar-friendly film yet.


Best Original Screenplay:

Rian Johnson, Knives Out

Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Han Jin-won and Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite

Immediate Reaction: Let’s see here. I’ve already gotten over the fact that Ad Astra’s only nomination came in Sound Editing, and that it was overlooked everywhere else. The nomination of 1917 is a massive surprise. Seeing as how Dunkirk, a very similar war film, was snubbed in this category, this means one of two things: the Academy genuinely loves the script, or 1917’s momentum is simply impossible to ignore. Other than that, I like these nominees quite a bit. Tarantino’s work in Hollywood is one of the best scripts I’ve read in quite a while, and the same can be said for Baumbach’s script in Marriage Story. I can’t see Parasite winning anything other than Best Foreign Language Film, and Knives Out has virtually no shot, even though Johnson’s nomination is something that made me incredibly happy.

Who Will Win: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

It’s fairly obvious that Tarantino will end up sweeping the awards season. He’s already won at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. Despite the fact that he’s not nominated at the Writers’ Guild Awards, due to his ineligibility, there’s nothing that should stop him from claiming his third Screenplay Oscar. Besides, the ending alone is award-worthy. No spoilers, but it needs to be seen in order to be believed.

Who Should Win: Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

It took a while, but I’ve finally sided with Baumbach. Sure, it would be great to see Tarantino win, but Baumbach hasn’t been nominated in 14 years, and it’s his time to shine. His work in Marriage Story is genuine perfection, and even though it hasn’t been receiving any awards, it would make my night if Baumbach walked away with Best Original Screenplay.


Best Adapted Screenplay:

Steven Zaillian, The Irishman

Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, Joker

Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes

Immediate Reaction: Ok, I’ve already established my frustrations with Joker’s originality when I discussed the Best Director nominees, but this is just atrocious. This just seems like yet another attempt by the Oscars to please the younger demographic. I’m looking at you, Black Panther. That being said, I’m very pleased and very surprised with the nomination of Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit. It takes a lot of guts to make a comedy about Nazi Germany, and Waititi was the only person who could pull off something like that. Although I’m upset that Greta Gerwig wasn’t nominated for Best Director, her chances are very good in this category. The same goes for Steven Zaillian’s work on The Irishman.

Who Will (and Should) Win: Greta Gerwig, Little Women

I’ve mentioned how I wanted Gerwig to get nominated for Best Director. But, there’s no point in beating a dead horse, so I won’t bring it up again. However, the Oscars will likely give Gerwig her first Oscar as a consolation prize, and for good reason. Her work in Little Women shows just how brilliant “nonlinear storytelling” can be, by using two different timelines to build emotion and really make the audience care about the characters. This is the work of a master, and it’s only Gerwig’s second film.


Best Cinematography:

Rodrigo Prieto, The Irishman

Lawrence Sher, Joker

Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse

Roger Deakins, 1917

Robert Richardson, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Immediate Reaction: The inclusion of The Lighthouse in this category is one of the biggest surprises I’ve mentioned so far, and it’s not a bad surprise. Horror movies are normally snubbed at the Oscars, so it’s great to see Robert Eggers’ sophomore effort get rewarded for its visual style. There actually isn’t a single nominee that I disagree with. Despite the fact that I don’t find both The Irishman and Joker Best Picture-worthy, they’re both incredibly well shot. The same goes for Richardson’s work in Hollywood, which is shot impeccably. However, the winner is as clear as day. Say it with me, everyone.

Who Will (and Should) Win: Roger Deakins, 1917

Say it. Roger Deakins will take home his second Oscar in three years for his mind-blowing work in the WWI epic, which showcases some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I’m not one for hyperbole when talking about movies, but in this case, there’s no way around it. One-shot movies are ridiculously hard to pull off in the first place, but shooting a war film with this technique and using more than just one location is an incredibly daunting task. However, Deakins has been called one of the best cinematographers in cinematic history for a reason. The man is simply a wizard when it comes to crafting breathtaking images, which makes the fact that he was previously nominated 13 times without winning an Oscar once even more of an outrage. This will be 1917’s third Oscar, and it won’t be the last, with the loudest movie usually winning the Oscars for Sound Editing and Mixing. There’s simply no alternative outcome.


Best Original Score:

Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

Alexandre Desplat, Little Women

Randy Newman, Marriage Story

Thomas Newman, 1917

John Williams: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Immediate Reaction: Here’s my unpopular opinion. I’m not as high on John Williams as everyone else seems to be, especially with his work in the Star Wars movies. All of his scores in these movies are exactly the same as the last one, and the worst part is that they keep getting nominated. The man has 52 nominations, and at least half of them aren’t even warranted. Aside from him, I love the rest of these nominees. All of these scores are filled to the brim with brilliance, and even though I have a personal favorite, the clear winner is pretty obvious, to be honest.

Who Will Win: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker

As much as I hate to say it, a comic book movie will win Best Original Score for the second year in a row. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love this score, and the music used in the bathroom scene might just be one of the best uses of music this year. It’s just not what I would give an Oscar to. That being said, Guðnadóttir’s work could end up sweeping at the rest of the major awards shows, with wins at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. However, there’s one composer, from one film in particular, that could end up being an immovable roadblock on Hollywood’s biggest night, and that is…

Who Should Win: Thomas Newman, 1917

Let’s be honest here. Newman’s work in 1917 isn’t just the best score of the year. It might be one of my top five favorite scores of the entire decade. Newman pulls out all the stops here, creating a war on three fronts between the brass, percussion and string instruments. Each song is able to convey its own emotions, from a mix of wonder and danger in “The Night Window,” to a terrifying, percussion-driven beat that tap danced on my nerves in “Engländer,” and a brilliant use of heroic fanfare that paid homage to Hans Zimmer’s work in The Thin Red Line with “Sixteen Hundred Men,” every track is its own beast. Normally, that would be a hindrance on any score, but with 1917, it felt welcome. Newman has been nominated 15 times at the Oscar, and is still winless. If he goes through this year without his first Oscar, I may be forced to check out completely from the Academy Awards. However, while doing my own research, I found something very interesting. As it turns out, the Houston Film Critics Association has correctly predicted the winner in this category six times in the last nine years. And guess who won this year? Thomas Newman, that’s who. Don’t let me down, Houston.