Park So-dam and Choi Woo-shik in Parasite

In an experiment designed to combat awards-show fatigue and bolster sagging ratings for the telecast (and good luck with both those goals), the 92nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony will be held earlier than usual, with the 2020 Oscars airing the night of Sunday, February 9. That means that Oscar nominations will also be announced earlier than usual – at roughly 7:20 a.m. on the morning of Monday, January 13. And you know what that means: In making my annual nomination predictions, yours truly doesn't have to wait nearly as long into the new year to look foolish!

I considered holding off on publishing my guesses until after January 7, as that's not only the day we learn which five films and helmers have been nominated for the highly predictive Directors Guild of America Awards, but also announcement day for the nominees of British Academy Film Awards, citations that sometimes offer clues as to how Oscar voters will vote. January 7 is also two days after this Sunday's Golden Globe Awards ceremony, whose victors frequently go on to further glory. (Last year, the big winners at the Globes were Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody, and at the Academy Awards a month later, the big winners were Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody.) But hell, being up-to-date on precursor-related info has never helped me before, so what say we dive right in?

The boldface names and titles below are my predicted nominees, non-boldface denotes runners-up, and predictions are in order of probability.

 

BEST PICTURE

The Irishman

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Parasite

Marriage Story

Jojo Rabbit

1917

Joker

Little Women

Ford v Ferrari

Rocketman

Bombshell

The Farewell

Knives Out

After eight years of preferential Best Picture voting in which the lineup can include anywhere between five and 10 titles, the odds of our ultimately getting eight or nine are awfully good: On three occasions, it's been eight, and on five occasions, nine. This year feels like an eight, with the first four movies on my list mortal locks, the next two locks without the “mortal,” and the next two seeming very much like done deals. If there's a ninth (as I can't imagine the shocker of a tenth), I'm thinking it'll be one of two very different studio hits that are both likely to garner plenty of votes in numerous craft categories, and maybe a Best Actor nod for good measure. The other three possibilities I've listed all feel “too” something or other (Bombshell – too meager at the box office; The Farewell – too niche; Knives Out – too blithe). And while there are loads of potential fringe options, among them The Two Popes, Uncut Gems, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Pain & Glory, Us, and Dolemite Is My Name, they also feel too fringe-y – not quite collectively adored enough to crack the Best Picture roster. I'm stickin' with eight, with the eventual winner, at this point, a complete toss-up between The Irishman, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Parasite, Marriage Story, and Jojo Rabbit. So we may as well just plan on everyone losing their minds when it ends up going to Joker.

 

BEST DIRECTING

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Pedro Almodóvar, Pain & Glory

Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Sam Mendes, 1917

Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Todd Phillips, Joker

The first three are set in stone. After that, it's re-e-e-eally questionable, given that I could name at least five directors – Jojo Rabbit's Taika Waititi, The Farewell's Lulu Wang, Portrait of a Lady on Fire's Céline Sciamma, and Uncut Gems' Benny and Josh Safdie – whom the famously unpredictable, underdog-friendly directors' branch could also choose for slots four and five. (Granted, voters could also go with the more conventional options of Ford v Ferrari's James Mangold or Bombshell's Jay Roach, but that would be a bit out of character for this group.) Despite his Spanish-language drama being a longshot for Best Picture and only a strong maybe for Actor, Screenplay, and International Feature Film, Almodóvar – previously nominated here for 2002's Talk to Her – delivered exactly the kind of deeply personal, technically precise work that fellow directors relish, so he feels in. And while Globe nominees Mendes and Phillips swing big (at least I'm assuming Mendes does, considering 1917 doesn't open locally until January 10), I'm thinking the fifth slot will go to either Baumbach or Gerwig, professional and romantic partners – they have a baby son! – who would both make the lineup in a year less crowded with older auteurs doing career-peak work. I'm consequently predicting Marriage Story's helmer, as Gerwig already has a Best Directing nod for 2017's Lady Bird and it's past time for Baumbach's first. Please don't #partoftheproblem me – I want Gerwig nominated, too, dammit!

Lupita Nyong'o in Us

BEST ACTRESS

Renée Zellweger, Judy

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Lupita Nyong'o, Us

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Alfre Woodard, Clemency

Awkwafina, The Farewell

Zellweger is in … and so in that she's one of the few names the Academy can engrave on a statuette right now. Johansson is in, too, and will deservedly receive the first Oscar nod of her decades-long career. (Actually, depending on the order in which this year's acting categories are announced, this might wind up her second Oscar nod.) But you could literally take my next three boldface inclusions and replace them all with the non-boldface ones – that's how tight this race is. All six options have their shares of pluses and minuses, and my guesses might not be wise considering Nyong'o didn't get a Globe nomination, Ronan didn't get a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nomination, and it's widely agreed that Erivo's portrayal is the only truly arresting element in an otherwise mediocre bio-pic. But Awkwafina, who could easily win this Sunday's Golden Globe for Actress in a Comedy or Musical, might be perceived as too untested a talent for Academy taste – this despite their clear love for rapper/comedians in the past. (Sarcasm. Obviously.) Woodard, whose first and most recent Oscar nod was 36 years ago (!), is getting legendary reviews for Clemency, but the death-row drama may to too harsh a pill to swallow, and its way-late limited release on December 27 won't help matters. And while it may be sheer stupidity not to predict SAG and Globe nominee Theron, the Academy has ignored her for loads of great work in the past (principally in 2011's Young Adult and 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road), and some might be wrongly inclined to think that the performer's most impressive work in Bombshell was delivered by the makeup artists. Plus, it's a teensy bit possible that voters may waffle at the thought of effectively handing an Oscar nomination to Megyn Kelly. Call me crazy, but I think that Hollywood just might be home to a liberal or two.

 

BEST ACTOR

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari

Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

If you include Uncut Gems' Adam Sandler, Richard Jewell's Paul Walter Hauser, and elephant-in-the-room Robert De Niro for The Irishman, Best Actor is even more front-loaded with potentials than Best Actress – but four of them, I think, don't have much to worry about. Driver and Phoenix have nods all sewn up; Banderas has already won major critics-group prizes for Pain & Glory and seems destined to receive his first Oscar nomination in a film career that started in 1982 (!); and DiCaprio gives perhaps his most entertaining performance to date as a weepy, alcoholic Hollywood has-been who can't remember lines and gets out-acted by an eight-year-old – that's gotta be relatable to, like, half the SAG membership! So who gets slot number five? Forget De Niro; he's fine, and at times even outstanding, but those exclusions by the Globes and SAG weren't accidents – this year, there are just stronger choices available. Pryce's agreed-upon excellence is sadly waylaid by the story's flashback structure. And while Murphy would be eminently deserving, his wonderful bio-comedy may not have the necessary gravitas for Best Actor acknowledgment; its title character feels like a role Murphy could play, albeit brilliantly, in his sleep. I'd actually say the same of Bale, but my guess is that the fifth nod will go either to him or Egerton, with the latter having the edge for beautifully channeling a famous figure whom show-biz folk (hell, all folk) love, and for actually singing Elton's songs – and singing them well! – to boot. Not that lip-synching would necessarily have been an impediment to a nomination … or even a win … even if that performer doesn't necessarily deserve the Oscar … . (Cough cough Rami Malek! cough cough.)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

Jo Yeo-jeong, Parasite

Park So-dam, Parasite

Among the possibilities I'm not even including on my top eight are three who should probably be there: Globe nominees Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell and Annette Bening for The Report, and SAG nominee Nicole Kidman for Bombshell. Yet I'm keeping this widely respected trio – familiar names with 11 previous Oscar nominations and two wins between them – off my official guesses for two reasons. One is that my boldface five really feels, to me, like the five: Dern, Robbie, and Lopez (who could still conceivably miss out with voters who consider Hustlers “trashy”) have SAG and Globe nods and have each won critics' prizes; Johansson got SAG recognition and is the only likely acting nominee from Jojo Rabbit (she'd be the first double-cited Oscar contender in the acting categories since Cate Blanchett in 2008); and word-of-mouth on Pugh's universally beloved portrayal of Amy is peaking at just the right time, and in just the right movie. But my second reason for no iteration of Bates/Bening/Kidman is that if there's going to be a major surprise in the acting races this year, Supporting Actress is where it's going to happen, just as it did last year for Roma's Marina de Tavira. Consider, then, Zhao's adorable grandma the first runner-up, and, respectively, Jo's excitable matriarch and Park's scheming sibling right behind her. With the top-billed cast receiving a much-deserved SAG nomination for Best Ensemble, it feels like someone from Parasite has to score an individual Oscar nod. And in the next category, I'm predicting someone will … .

Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Song Kang-ho, Parasite

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Ray Liotta, Marriage Story

Alan Alda, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actor boasts even more legitimate possibilities than Best Actor … partly because a bunch of them could conceivably have been nominated for Best Actor, given that this category is positively lousy with co-leads masquerading as featured performers. Pitt? Definite co-lead. Pacino? Co-lead in the manner of Amadeus. The Lighthouse's Willem Dafoe and The Two Popes' Anthony Hopkins? Not listed above, but co-lead and co-lead – their movies basically only have two characters, for Pete's sake! As last year's win by Green Book's Mahershala Ali attests, it's clear why Oscar campaigners take this category-fraud route, not that the practice – especially in a year in which Liotta and Alda are so memorable – is any less disheartening for being so frequently successful. But moving beyond Pitt (a done deal, our most likely winner, and category fraud I'm totally on-board with) and Pacino (whose omission would surprise but not shock me), I think a few genuine supporting actors actually will crack the Supporting Actor lineup: the lock that is Pesci, the shaky maybe that is SAG nominee Foxx, and the “unexpected” contender that is Song, whose inclusion should astonish only those who think a performer simply can't be acknowledged without individual recognition from the Globes and SAG. As for Hanks, who was Globes- and SAG-cited, remember when the guy got those same awards bodies in his corner for 2013's Captain Phillips yet wound up empty-handed on Oscar-nomination morning? I'm betting he does. I'm also betting he will again.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Parasite

The Farewell

Pain & Glory

Knives Out

Uncut Gems

Bombshell

So-o-o-o many options! (And I wouldn't even exclude the possibilities of Ford v Ferrari, 1917, Us, Dolemite Is My Name, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.) In a spectacular year for original works, let's go with the Baumbach, the Tarantino, and, for what I'm pretty sure would be the first time in this category's history, three foreign-language titles. And super-fans of American franchise movies can't even get mad about it, because all their favorite scripts would be considered in the adapted category!

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Two Popes

Joker

Hustlers

Dark Waters

So-o-o-o few options! (And I included Hustlers and Dark Waters only to fill out my requisite eight.) In a paltry year for adaptations, let's go with gangsters, Nazis, Louisa May Alcott, and a pair of movies that won't receive recognition anywhere else. And super-fans of American franchise movies can totally get mad about it, because the screenplays for Joker, Toy Story 4, and franchise hopeful Shazam! are all significantly better than the screenplays for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and The Two Popes! (May God forgive me.)

I Lost My Body

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Toy Story 4

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Missing Link

I Lost My Body

Frozen II

Weathering with You

Okko's Inn

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

It was a depressingly sequel-rific year for animated features. So I'm crossing fingers for nominations leading to wins for either Missing Link (its studio Laika really needs to be acknowledged, soon, as the best in America's animated-film business) or I Lost My Body, which you can find on Netflix. It's about a severed hand searching for its missing owner. Totally worth a look.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Apollo 11

American Factory

Honeyland

One Child Nation

For Sama

Maiden

The Apollo

Aquarela

But if both Honeyland and For Sama are replaced by some combination of The Biggest Little Farm, The Great Hack, and Knock Down the House – films also short-listed for this Oscar by the Academy's documentary branch – I will have seen all five nominees for Best Documentary Feature. Is it unfair to the other two to root for that outcome instead?

 

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

Parasite, South Korea

Les Misérables, France

Pain & Slory, Spain

Atlantics, Senegal

Corpus Christi, Poland

Truth & Justice, Estonia

Honeyland, North Macedonia

The Painted Bird, Czech Republic

Yes – Les Misérables. Just not the one you think it is. And while I applaud all the eventual nominees in this category, whether I've seen their films or not, I hope all of them practice their resting resigned-acceptance faces for the moment in which the South Korean entry is announced as the winner.

George MacKay in 1917

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1917

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Parasite

Joker

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

The Lighthouse

Ford v Ferrari

 

BEST FILM EDITING

The Irishman

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Parasite

Ford v Ferrari

Little Women

Marriage Story

Joker

Uncut Gems

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

The Irishman

1917

Little Women

Parasite

Knives Out

Joker

Dumbo

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Little Women

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Dolemite Is My Name

Rocketman

Motherless Brooklyn

The Irishman

Judy

Hustlers

 

BEST SOUND EDITING

1917

Ford v Ferrari

Ad Astra

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Avengers: Endgame

The Irishman

Parasite

Taron Egerton in Rocketman

BEST SOUND MIXING

1917

Ford v Ferrari

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Rocketman

Ad Astra

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Avengers: Endgame

Parasite

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1917

Marriage Story

Little Women

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Motherless Brooklyn

Joker

Pain & Glory

Us

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Frozen II, “Into the Unknown”

Rocketman, “(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again”

The Lion King, “Spirit”

Harriet, “Stand Up”

Wild Rose, “Glasgow”

Aladdin, “Speechless”

Toy Story 4, “I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away”

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, “High Above the Water”

 

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

Bombshell

Rocketman

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Judy

Little Women

Dolemite Is My Name

Joker

1917

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Cats. Just Cats.

(Kidding – although the musical, incredibly, did make the visual-effects branch's shortlist of 10 potentially Oscar-cited titles, which didn't happen for Spider-Man: Far from Home, Godzilla: King of Monsters, Dumbo, or even freakin' Ad Astra. Cats got in instead. As did The Irishman. Go figure.)

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS (FOR REAL THIS TIME)

The Lion King

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Avengers: Endgame

1917

Alita: Battle Angel

Gemini Man

Terminator: Dark Fate

Captain Marvel

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