In Depth

Oscar predictions 2020: who will win on Sunday?

One of the most open Academy Awards in years takes place this weekend

The clock is ticking down to Hollywood’s biggest night of the year: the Academy Awards.

Nominees for the 2020 Oscars include Todd Phillip’s Joker, nominated for 11 prizes, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, South Korean thriller Parasite, and Netflix productions The Irishman and Marriage Story.

Last year’s winners Olivia Colman and Rami Malek will be among the stars presenting awards at the ceremony, which will kick off in Los Angeles at 1am GMT on 10 February.

Here’s a look at the nominations in the major categories.

Best Picture

Two of the most talked about movies of the year are Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Martin Scorsese’s return to the gangster genre, The Irishman.

But they’ll be up against stiff competition with the likes of 1917, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Parasite, and Ford v Ferrari.

Sam Mendes will take confidence from the fact that his war epic 1917 won at the Golden Globes and Baftas.

“This is a huge, huge thing for this movie,” said Mendes during his acceptance speech at the Globes. “It’s difficult to make movies without big movie stars in the leads and get people to come and see it in a cinema, and I really hope this means people will turn up and see it on the big screen, for which it was intended.”

Leading Actor

Joaquin Phoenix, known for his ultra-immersive approach to character acting, secured a nomination for his role in Joker, which the Star Tribune calls “the performance of his career”.

Adam Driver has also been nominated, after causing a stir with Marriage Story, about the devastating breakdown of a couple who want the best for their child.

Others nominated include Spanish actor Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes, and Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Leading Actress

Nominee Renee Zellweger is the “surest bet to win” the category, says Gold Derby, which polled 28 film critics and journalists, all of whom offered rave reviews of her lead performance in Judy, a biopic of actress and singer Judy Garland.

Despite dominating discourse in the field, Zellweger still faces some challenges from other nominated actors, including Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story, Charlize Theron for Bombshell, Saoirse Ronan for Little Women and Cynthia Erivo for Harriet.

Best Director

The Irishman has put Scorsese back in the spotlight, with Thrillist describing his work as “a master returning to the genre of his defining works, experimenting with ambitious technology, and doing some self examination in the process”.

But others think 2020 is the year of Tarantino, who has never won an Oscar for Best Director, but is nominated this year for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Mendes, who won a Best Director gong 20 years ago for American Beauty, won a nomination for 1917, and could be set to win the award. “Plenty of British stiff-upper-lip-during-war dramas get Oscar buzz and 1917 may be no different,” says GQ.

Others nominated in the category include South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho for his tour-de-force Parasite, which has received widespread acclaim since its release, and Philips for Joker.

Best Supporting Actor

“Pitt. Pesci. Pacino,” Thrillist says. “There are a lot of Ps vying for Best Supporting Actor, an Oscar race with heavy hitters and potentially some category fraud.”

Brad Pitt gets the nod for his role in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, despite arguably being more suited to the Best Actor category. Is it a ploy to avoid Pitt and DiCaprio challenging each other in the leading category? Whatever the reason, Pitt appears to be the frontrunner.

He faces a handful of returning screen veterans, including Joe Pesci and Al Pacino in The Irishman, Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes.

Best Supporting Actress

If the bookmakers are anything to go by, the frontrunner in this category is nominee Laura Dern for her performance as a family lawyer in Marriage Story.

But she has some strong competition from Margot Robbie, nominated for Bombshell, which came “exploding into the Oscar race” in October, says Deadline. Robbie plays a fictional character inspired by some of the real-life women who took down Fox News founder Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.

Also nominated are Kathy Bates for her role as the title character’s mother in Richard Jewell, Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit and Florence Pugh in Little Women.

Best Cinematography

It’s a competitive year for the category, but among the favourites to win the award is veteran cinematographer Robert Richardson, who earns his tenth nomination for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

The Hollywood Reporter suggests Richardson could still be challenged by nominees Rodrigo Prieto for The Irishman and Lawrence Sher for Joker.

Roger Deakins is nominated for 1917, which tells the story of warfare in the First World War using an experimental singular/continuous take technique. The cinematographer, from Torquay, has been nominated 14 times in this category, winning only once; for Blade Runner 2049 in 2017.

Also nominated is Jarin Blaschke for The Lighthouse, a psychological horror film about two lighthouse keepers trying to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

Leading the pack of nominees are The Irishman, largely adapted from murder prosecutor Charles Brandt’s 2004 book, and Jojo Rabbit, based on Christine Leunens’s Caging Skies.

Little Women also gets a nomination. Greta Gerwig’s new movie is the seventh film adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic. Three of its predecessors picked up eight Oscar nominations and two wins between them, including Best Adapted Screenplay for the 1933 version - and Gerwig’s version has now joined them as a nominee.

Joker and The Two Popes are the other two contenders in a highly competitive category.

Best Documentary Feature

Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s American Factory, an eye-opening look at the differences between American and Chinese factory workers when they come together at a Chinese car-glass factory in Ohio, won widespread acclaim, and now a nomination.

It is joined by Netflix documentary The Edge of Democracy, which follows the beleaguered leaders of Brazil as they deal with their ideologically divided country.

The Cave, from previous Oscar nominee Feras Fayyad (Last Men in Aleppo) tells the story of the Syrian war and the besieged civilians that have fallen victim to it.

For Sama also tells the story of the Syrian conflict, focusing on the female experience of war. Subject Waad al-Kateab falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama - all the while surrounded by fighting.

Honeyland follows Hatidze Muratova, one of the last wild beekeepers in Bekirlija, a remote village in North Macedonia. "The opening minutes of Honeyland are as astonishing - as sublime and strange and full of human and natural beauty - as anything I’ve ever seen in a movie,” says A.O. Scott in The New York Times.

Best Animated Film

Missing Link, Toy Story 4 and Klaus are among the nominees for Best Animated Feature category, selected from a longlist of 32 feature films submitted for consideration.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World picks up a nomination and is considered a dark horse in the field by CineWorld blogger Sean Wilson, who describes it as “a thrilling, Nordic-influenced adventure based on Cressida Cowell’s novel”.

“There’s no denying it’s got the power of nostalgia on its side,” Wilson adds. “An entire generation of moviegoers has grown up watching the joys and tragedies of Hiccup and Toothless, so maybe all that accumulated good will yield Oscar gold?”

Also nominated is I Lost my Body, “one of the most original and creative animated features I’ve ever seen”, says Peter Debruge in Variety.

Disney’s Frozen 2 officially became the highest-grossing animated movie in history this month, but was snubbed for the shortlist.

International Feature Film

It is a competitive year for the category, formerly known as Foreign Language Film, with entrants from France, North Macedonia, Poland, Spain and South Korea. 

Fresh from winning the top overall film prize at the SAG Awards, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is the favourite to win International Film.

But it isn’t without stiff competition. Lady Ly’s Les Misérables, set in the Paris suburb of Montfermeil where Victor Hugo wrote his classic novel of the same name, is a strong contender.

“A hundred and fifty years on, we find life in the Paris banlieue no less wretched than Hugo did, rife with gang violence, drugs and prostitution, a melting pot of African and Arab immigrants spiked with unsavoury ingredients,” says the Financial Times.

The film has drawn comparisons to Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 film La Haine, the black and white epic following the lives of three young men in a Parisian ghetto after a violent riot.

Honeyland gets its second nomination after its Documentary Feature nod, while Pain and Glory is recognised again alongside Antonio Banderas’s Leading Actor nomination.

Rounding out the list is Corpus Christi, a smart, twisty Polish drama about an ex-con who takes up the identity of a new priest. The film “sidesteps a soppy trajectory to land on a much bleaker, thoughtful note”, says The Guardian.

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Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame is now the highest-grossing movie in history and was named “the best comic book movie ever” by NME, but it has only picked up one Oscar nomination: Visual Effects.

The film is filled with spectacular scenes and memorable moments, including a third-act battle featuring just about every hero in the Marvel Comics Universe, notes Digital Trends.

It is up against two other Disney franchise heavyweights: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and The Lion King.

The Irishman, which returns De Niro, Pacino and Pesci to their younger years, also made the cut - as did 1917, which is presented as one continuous shot. “The visual effects team had to maintain the illusion for two hours, which meant totally rethinking the way films are made,” explains Wired.

For this reason, it looks likely to be a toss-up between the WWI epic and Marvel’s Endgame.

Best Original Score

Unusually, this year’s Best Original Score category is something of a family affair, with cousins Randy and Thomas Newman both vying for the prize for different films.

Randy, a prolific singer-songwriter who has now been nominated for a remarkable 22 Oscars, is a strong favourite for Marriage Story, while Thomas, who is mainly known for his compositions for films, is a contender for 1917.

According to Indiewire, the prize is either likely to go to one of the Newman cousins or to Hildur Guonadottir, the Icelandic composer who this week became the first solo woman ever to win the Best Original Music Bafta, for Joker.

“The composer has been praised not only for inspiring Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, but recently took home an Emmy for her avant-garde score for HBO hit series Chernobyl,” the film news site adds.

Other nominees include John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - the veteran composer’s record 52nd Oscar nomination - and Alexandre Desplat for Little Women.

Best Original Song

“It might not have the prestige of the acting or directing awards, but Best Original Song at the Oscars is always a fascinating category,” says the London Evening Standard, and “this year’s batch of nominees is typically intriguing”.

“Unlike last year, when Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s ‘Shallow’ seemed destined to win from the moment it arrived, this year’s category doesn’t necessarily boast a clear frontrunner,” says Rolling Stone.

After Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award wins, Elton John’s original song (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again is the bookies’ favourite, although Dexter Fletcher’s bio-musical Rocketman was unfairly snubbed from the main film and acting awards.

Oscar favourite Randy Newman will be looking to bag his third gong with Toy Story 4’s I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away, while Krisen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez will hoping for an upset with Into the Unknown for Frozen II.

Diane Warren, who earned her 11th Best Original Song nomination for I’m Standing With You from Breakthrough, would be a popular choice. Meanwhile, Stand Up from Harriet, sung by the film’s star Cynthia Erivo, “does what any Oscar-worthy song should do - it straddles both the narrative of the film and its credibility as a standalone piece of art”, says the Standard.

Rolling Stone says there is one “significant snub that arguably outshines any of the nominees” - and that is Beyoncé and her Lion King song Spirit.

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