George Mackay in 1917

The 92nd Annual Academy Awards telecast is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. CST on Sunday, February 9, and before getting into the nitty-gritty of what I think might win, I'll tell you right away why 1917 is destined to receive a whole bunch of Oscars including Best Picture: If it doesn't get at least six, the Best Picture champ from 2010-2019 that amassed the most trophies is going to be The Artist. Remember The Artist? That silent, black-and-white, French comedy from 2011 that you kept meaning to see and never did? That's gonna be immortalized the decade's biggest winner. Liberal bona fides or not, Academy members would never let that happen.

So here, with the boldface signifying my final guesses, is what I think voters will let happen!

 

BEST PICTURE

1917

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Parasite

I will readily commiserate with the Irishman/Once Upon a Time/Parasite fans among you … and also the Ferrari/Jojo/Joker/Little Women/Marriage Story fans among you. But let's not kid ourselves. After the movie won the Golden Globe, the 1917 avalanche started and hasn't let up: Best Picture from the Producers Guild of America, Best Director from the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Best Film and Best British Film from the British Film Academy (BAFTA), and huge domestic box office – $120 million and counting since its January 10 wide-release debut. Hollywood's wins at the Globes and Critics Choice Awards were heartening, and the cast's two standing ovations for Parasite at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards were enough to think another result might occur. But one won't. Seriously. Stop even considering it. (He said, staring at his disconsolate face in the mirror.)

 

BEST DIRECTING

1917, Sam Mendes

The Irishman, Martin Scorsese

Joker, Todd Phillips

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino

Parasite, Bong Joon Ho

While I will continue to cross fingers for Bong and the far-less likely Tarantino, I get why DGA, BAFTA, and Globe winner Mendes is gonna get this. I really do. But it's still relevant to point out that, if the 1917 director does receive his second Best Directing Oscar (his first being for 1999's American Beauty), Scorsese will have previously won only one. Tarantino will have won none. Bong will have won none. And Phillips will have won none. Okay, that last example kind of kills my point. But still … !

Renee Zellweger in Judy

BEST ACTRESS

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renée Zellweger, Judy

To my mind, Zellweger is better than a couple of others in this category, and not as good as a couple more. But without Us' Lupita Nyong'o in the race (nope, still not over her absence here …), I'm fine with whatever happens. And this win is gonna.

 

BEST ACTOR

Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Whatever your feelings about his film and intensely ballsy, instantly iconic performance, can we all at least agree that four-time nominee Phoenix has maybe deserved an Oscar since 1989 – back when he was working under the name “Leaf Phoenix” and playing Dianne Wiest's damaged, porn-curious son in Parenthood? That kid would've totally grown up to be the Joker.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell

A three-time nominee who has never won, who received her first nod in 1992, who's the daughter of Oscar-nominated Hollywood legends Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, and who has worked with everyone from Spielberg (once) to David Lynch (many, many times), Laura Dern will finally get her Academy Award. And I would give nearly anything for Dern to start her acceptance speech with the same words she uses to introduce herself in Marriage Story: “Sorry I look so schleppy … .”

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

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

Fun fact! When Pitt receives his Oscar – not if, but when – he'll be both the youngest nominee in his category and the oldest of the four eventual acting winners. When news outlets report that bit of trivia on February 10, you'll know they stole it from me. (By the way, if those at your Oscar party are laying bets on who'll give the night's best speech, it's gonna be Pitt. Just accept it. Don't be a hero.)

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1917, Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairnes

Knives Out, Rian Johnson

Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino

Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won

The only category it's nominated in that 1917 has almost no chance of winning. (And if it does win, watch out: We're probably talking a 10-for-10 sweep.) The winner, then, will likely be either Once Upon a Time or Parasite. Tarantino won the Globe and Critics' Choice Awards. Bong and Han won the BATFA and Writers Guild Award (WGA) – the latter a category in which Tarantino, for guild-related reasons, wasn't nominated. I'm sli-i-ightly leaning toward Tarantino, but given that the guy has two Oscars in this category already, I'm quietly rooting for Parasite. So win-win, really.

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Irishman, Steven Zaillian

Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi

Joker, Todd Phillips, Scott Silver

Little Women, Greta Gerwig

The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten

Greta Gerwig is a standing ovation waiting to happen. But this is Jojo Rabbit's only conceivable win (Little Women has the slam-dunk of Costume Design and The Irishman has a definite maybe in Visual Effects and few other craft/tech categories), most of its admirers would agree that the highly risky script is the best thing about it, and this past weekend, the film emerged victorious with BAFTA and the WGA. And have you seen Taika Waititi in interviews or on the awards-show circuit? The guy's delightful! Never underestimate the appeal of a potentially wonderful, televised awards speech. (See: Pitt, Brad.)

Missing Link

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I Lost My Body

Klaus

Missing Link

Toy Story 4

With apologies to the Dragon sequel, this is the first time in this category's 19-year history that the victor could easily be any of four titles. Given that Pixar has triumphed nine times already, I'd feel more confident about predicting front-runner Toy Story 4 if voters hadn't shown enormous resistance to the company's sequels. (Finding Dory, Monsters University, and Cars 2 and 3 weren't even nominated, and the only follow-up to ever win was the previous Toy Story.) I Lost My Body and Klaus – the latter of which just won the BAFTA – are both easily, deservedly watchable on Netflix, but I think there might be a reverse-Netflix thing happening, because all of this year's nominees from the streaming service feel, to me, like they came out ages ago. (I can't be the only one sensing this: It would certainly explain the blasé award-show responses The Irishman and Marriage Story and The Two Popes seem to be generating lately.) And so I'm going with Missing Link – partly because its studio Laika is five-for-five on nominations and deserves a win, and partly because it won the Golden Globe amidst near-exact competition and the crowd's collective response suggested both “I've never heard of that one!” and “I've got to see that one!” Considering Missing Link was my own favorite animated release of 2019, I'm hoping they did.

 

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

Corpus Christi, Poland

Honeyland, North Macedonia

Les Misérables, France

Pain & Glory, Spain

Parasite, South Korea

The evening's safest bet, and consequently, the category announcement you can safely miss by being in the bathroom or in the kitchen opening your second bottle of wine. But it's gonna be Bong Joon Ho at the podium, and perhaps for the only time that night. You'll wanna be there just for the ovation he receives.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

American Factory

The Cave

The Edge of Democracy

For Sama

Honeyland

Netflix made an outstanding showing with nominations this year, but is likely to receive few actual Oscars for a lineup that includes Marriage Story (whose train will probably stop with Laura Dern) and The Irishman (which, astonishingly, will probably wind up with nothing). A win here would help soothe the pain. And it should be mentioned that American Factory is the first release by Higher Ground Productions, a film company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama. Tell me that ain't gonna help.

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1917

The Irishman

Joker

The Lighthouse

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Roger Deakins won this award for Blade Runner 2049 two years ago, and he's gonna win for 1917, and I won't bitch about his winning until he finally receives as many Academy Awards as his miraculous résumé deserves. So plan on me bitching about seven or eight wins from now.

Ford v Ferrari

BEST FILM EDITING

Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Parasite

With the “one-shot”-wonder 1917 not in this race, I'm temped to predict The Irishman's Thelma Schoonmaker, given that she's already won three Oscars for Scorsese and her editing of his latest is traditionally astounding. My feeling, though, is that enough voters will recall the film and its three-and-a-half-hour running length and think, “Editing?! What editing?!?” So while I'll maintain hope for Schoonmaker or Parasite's even-more-deserving Yang Jinmo, let's officially go with the movie with all those cars going really, really fast.

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

1917

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Parasite

Parasite's nomination is its own reward, and if it wins here, it's probably winning Best Picture. So let's instead focus on the other four by agreeing to the documented fact that the Academy is primarily composed of White Men of a Certain Age. Very few of them were alive in 1917. (That doesn't stop the WWI epic from being the close-runner-up in this category.) A number of them probably remember World War II. A greater number remember the Jimmy Hoffa era. But most of these voters will no doubt remember the Hollywood-in-'69 that Tarantino's designers fastidiously, lovingly, unforgettably recreated.

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

It's entirely possible, and maybe even probable, that Greta Gerwig won't win for her screenplay. Little Women's gonna get a deserved speech regardless.

 

BEST SOUND EDITING

1917

Ford v Ferrari

Joker

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

 

BEST SOUND MIXING

1917

Ad Astra

Ford v Ferrari

Joker

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Nutshelling the differences, in grossly simplified ways, between the Sound categories: Editing is for bangs and booms, and Mixing is for blending bangs and booms with dialogue, foley effects, the score, et cetera. Distinct skill sets, to be sure. But for decades, vocal Academy members have lobbied to make these two Oscar races only one, arguing that voters don't necessarily appreciate the differences between the two and are consequently voting for their favorite in both lineups regardless of their categorical merits. It's not an invalid point: Over the past 10 years alone, the double winners have included The Hurt Locker, Inception, Hugo, Gravity, Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, and Bohemian Rhapsody. And 1917 will only add fuel to the argument. (For the record, I think 1917 totally deserves Editing, but Mixing should be Once Upon a Time's in a freakin' walk.)

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1917

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

1917 composer Thomas Newman is on his 15th nomination without a win, and in any other year – and this is a 1917 year! – he'd finally receive his long-overdue Oscar. But those mood-setting Joker strings are awfully strong. And did you know that the film's Globe- and BAFTA-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir also snagged an Emmy this past fall for scoring HBO's Chernobyl? She'd be halfway to an EGOT in half a year! Damn[February 7 update: Somehow, I completely missed the news that Guðnadóttir also received a Grammy Award for Chernobyl, meaning she'd be three-quarters of the way to an EGOT in half a year! Bigger damn!]

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Breakthrough, “I'm Standing with You”

Frozen II, “Into the Unknown”

Harriet, “Stand Up”

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

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

Music legend Diane Warren, who has yet to win an Academy Award, received her 11th nomination for Breakthrough, and a vote for Harriet would literally be a vote for its star, as Cynthia Erivo, collaborating with Joshuah Brian Campbell, co-wrote “Stand Up”'s music and lyrics. But as Elton John and Bernie Taupin informed everyone when they won the Globe, Rocketman is the first project they've been awarded for as co-composers. That's a historic Oscar moment too juicy to pass up.

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

1917

Avengers: Endgame

The Irishman

The Lion King

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

What a world we live in when the only nominee in this category that definitely won't win is a Star Wars. So taking a stab in the dark, let's go with 1917, with the possible spoiler of The Irishman (for effects that the industry appears to relish more than I currently do). As the film isn't gonna win traditional Best Picture accompaniments in the acting, editing, and writing races, I'm imagining that fans of Mendes' hit will want to give it as many other Oscars as it can. 1917 probably won't be a sweep, but likely will be a reasonably thorough dusting.

John Lithgow in Bombshell

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

1917

Bombshell

Joker

Judy

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Judy has wigs. Joker has clown paint. 1917 has smudge and grime and viscera. And Mistress of Evil and Bombshell have cheekbones. I can imagine how Angelina Jolie got Maleficent's. But I have no earthly idea – and I doubt many Oscar voters do – how Charlize Theron got Megyn Kelly's. Bonus points for John Lithgow's morbidly obese Roger Ailes, a feat accomplished through phenomenally fine prosthetics. I hope.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

In the Absence

Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)

Life Overtakes Me

St. Louis Superman

Walk Run Cha-Cha

Once upon a time, in predicting the winners of the three short-film categories, you could do reasonably well by always choosing the films with the best titles. Now that they're more-easily viewable through the Internet, streaming services, and public screenings (thank you, Iowa City's FilmScene, for again letting viewers catch all 15!), you have a better chance of actually seeing the works prior to Oscar night. [February 7 update: As of today, the shorts are also now playing locally - thank you, Davenport's Rave Cinemas!] Among this lineup, and having not yet seen the contenders, I'm going with the best title. I'm also going with Skateboard because, in this particular race, In the Absence and Life Overtakes Me sound way-too depressing, and St. Louis Superman and Walk Run Cha-Cha don't sound nearly depressing enough.

 

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT

Brotherhood

Nefta Football Club

The Neighbors' Window

Saria

A Sister

At Oscars.com, Nefta Football Club's synopsis reads as follows: “In south Tunisia, two football fan brothers bump into a headphones-wearing donkey in the desert on the border of Algeria. Unaware that two men are waiting for the donkey and its hidden drug stash, the brothers take the animal back home with them.” Sold.

 

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Dcera (Daughter)

Hair Love

Kitbull

Memorable

Sister

A hunch based solely on my having seen this one, and having loved it, prior to this past summer's The Angry Birds Movie 2, which I viewed alongside my favorite five-year-old – a sequel that, to date, remains my movie-going companion's favorite movie of all time. Don't say I was never willing to make a fool of myself for ya, kid.

Premium Content: