BLOG: 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions

by Ken Bakely

Off we go into another awards season. It seems like many of the categories at this year’s Oscars are defined by a set of heavy frontrunners, followed by one or two wild card positions, where any one of many contenders could sneak their way in on Monday morning. This makes it both fun and challenging to predict, as we try to read both the tea leaves offered to us by guild precursors, and intuition about where Academy voters’ tastes might lie, to make (at least somewhat) informed predictions of what this year’s nominations will look like. There are ample opportunities for excitement and surprise.

As always, I will be offering my nomination predictions in some of the top categories. For each category, I will rank the top contenders based on my perceived likelihood of the nomination, with one potential spoiler (or two for Best Picture, since there can be up to twice as many nominees there as in other categories). 

After the nominees are announced, I will go back and edit this column, tallying my scores and offering my thoughts. These additional notes will be listed in blue.

And with that, here we go.

UPDATE (January 13): My scores and reactions have now been added in blue.

BEST PICTURE

Rank Film
1 Parasite
2 The Irishman
3 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
4 1917
5 Jojo Rabbit
6 Marriage Story
7 Joker
8 Bombshell
9 Little Women
10 Knives Out

SPOILERS: Ford v Ferrari and Rocketman

COMMENTS: It looks like things are heading towards Parasite, The Irishman, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as the Best Picture frontrunners, though 1917 is quickly amassing support through buzz from its Golden Globe wins and strong box office prospects. Once you get past Marriage Story, it becomes harder to predict the directions of this contest with much confidence, but it feels like we can mostly work with confidence from here.

REACTIONS: 8 for 9. Bombshell out, Ford v Ferrari in. Still think it’s between the four that I mentioned on Saturday.


BEST DIRECTOR

Rank Nominee Film
1 Bong Joon-ho Parasite
2 Martin Scorsese The Irishman
3 Sam Mendes 1917
4 Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
5 Greta Gerwig Little Women

SPOILER: Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

COMMENTS: Bong, Scorsese, and Mendes seem to have solidified as formidable locks here, with Tarantino not far behind. It’s the fifth position that gives me pause: Gerwig could benefit from support for Little Women, but Waititi can’t be discounted if Jojo Rabbit plays well with the Academy. Additionally, I wouldn’t be overly surprised if industry love for Joker saw Todd Phillips find his way into this category.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Gerwig out, Todd Phillips for Joker in. I give the edge to Bong in terms of who will win, but Scorsese and Mendes remain quite viable. 


BEST ACTOR

Rank Nominee Film
1 Joaquin Phoenix Joker
2 Adam Driver Marriage Story
3 Leonardo DiCaprio Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
4 Taron Egerton Rocketman
5 Antonio Banderas Pain and Glory

SPOILER: Christian Bale – Ford v Ferrari

COMMENTS: Phoenix, Driver, and DiCaprio have emerged as the leaders, though Phoenix is probably a few steps ahead from those two even still; he’s fully emerged as a favorite to win, and his odds seem to strengthen every day. The final two slots in this category are more up in the air. Egerton and Banderas seem to feel the most at home here, with strong industry support for the former’s performance (the Academy loves biopics, of course) and critical acclaim for the latter’s performance. But we can’t forget about Christian Bale’s proven ability to get nominated with otherwise little precursor support, nor can we overlook The Two Popes: while not as strong in this awards season as it used to be, Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins are formidable contenders in their respective categories, with Pryce in lead and Hopkins in supporting (more on that later).

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Egerton out, Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes in. With his win at the Critics’ Choice Awards on Sunday, it appears that Phoenix could be his way to a clean sweep, similar to the trajectory that all of these acting categories could very well replicate.


BEST ACTRESS 

Rank Nominee Film
1 Renée Zellweger Judy
2 Scarlett Johansson Marriage Story
3 Charlize Theron Bombshell
4 Lupita Nyong’o Us
5 Cynthia Erivo Harriet

SPOILER: Saoirse Ronan – Little Women 

COMMENTS: I’ve already heard people comparing Zellweger’s frontrunner status here to Glenn Close’s last year, which, of course, ended with her losing. But I don’t think this comparison tracks. Close lost to Olivia Colman, who had gained a following throughout the awards season in a movie that had ten nominations, signaling wide support across the Academy. Few predicted Close would lose, but those who did had virtually all agreed on who would win instead. That dynamic hasn’t been replicated here, with multiple names put forward as potential upsets, but no clear argument as to how it will happen.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Nyong’o out, Ronan in. Saddened, but not necessarily surprised, by Us’s absence from any category this year.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR  

Rank Nominee Film
1 Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
2 Joe Pesci The Irishman
3 Al Pacino The Irishman
4 Tom Hanks A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
5 Anthony Hopkins The Two Popes

SPOILER: Song Kang-ho – Parasite

COMMENTS: Pitt and Pesci are at the top of the pack, with the race quickly moving in Pitt’s direction. Pacino feels like a safe bet, as does Hanks (though, oddly enough for a universally beloved actor who has enough of a pedigree with the Academy to serve on its board of governors, he actually hasn’t gotten nominated very much in the last 20 years). From there, we see that wonky fifth slot. Hopkins has the prestige to move in, but he’s not safe: Song Kang-ho seems like a real possibility, and could be swept in on what I suspect could be very impressive coattails for Parasite.

REACTIONS: Perfect score. Parasite did well this morning, but it did not overperform expectations. Unfortunately, a dramatic overperformance probably would have been necessary for it to break into the crowded acting fields.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS  

Rank Nominee Film
1 Laura Dern Marriage Story
2 Jennifer Lopez Hustlers
3 Margot Robbie Bombshell
4 Scarlett Johansson Jojo Rabbit
5 Zhao Shuzhen The Farewell

SPOILER: Florence Pugh – Little Women

COMMENTS: Like Best Actor, this is another example of a category where there’s a prohibitive favorite to win (Dern), but a really strong top three in terms of nominations. After that, the race opens up. Johansson could get in, considering that she’s likely nominated elsewhere, and is in two likely Best Picture contenders. Zhao has the best chance to represent The Farewell anywhere at this year’s Oscars, but it sadly appears that the movie is losing steam with Academy voters at large.

REACTIONS: 3 for 5. Lopez and Zhao out, Pugh and Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell in. Disappointed to see The Farewell‘s awards season run conclude without any Oscar recognition, and dismayed at the near-complete lack of diversity in the acting categories, with only one person of color honored among the acting nominees.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Rank Film Screenwriter(s)
1 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Quentin Tarantino
2 Parasite Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
3 Marriage Story Noah Baumbach
4 Knives Out Rian Johnson
5 1917 Sam Mendes and Kyrsty Wilson-Cairns

SPOILER: Booksmart – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman

COMMENTS: Either Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Parasite are the favorites here right now. I’m not at all confident about 1917 getting nominated, considering that its campaign has been far more centered on its technical achievements than its storytelling. However, if this really is as strong a Best Picture prospect it could potentially be, a writing nomination would be one of the most obvious signs of its power. However, if another movie should find itself in this category, I think there’s a pretty clear candidate: Booksmart’s WGA nomination is an excellent sign that this stellar comedy could very well find Oscar recognition.

REACTIONS: Perfect score. I honestly would have been happy to be a little wrong here, and see Booksmart get nominated, but maybe it was too good to be true.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Rank Film Screenwriter(s)
1 The Irishman Steven Zaillian
2 Jojo Rabbit Taika Waititi
3 The Two Popes Anthony McCarten
4 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster
5 Little Women Greta Gerwig

SPOILER: Joker – Todd Phillips and Scott Silver

COMMENTS: Though The Irishman is not the unstoppable Oscar juggernaut it once looked to be, it could have an easier time here. There are a lot of strong cases for the other contenders, but this could be a year when the early frontrunner strolls through to the Dolby Theater.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood out, Joker in.


BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE 

Rank Film Country of Origin
1 Parasite South Korea
2 Pain and Glory Spain
3 Les Misérables France
4 Honeyland North Macedonia
5 Atlantics Senegal

SPOILER: Those Who Remained – Hungary

COMMENTS: The complicated process of voting on nominees in this category means that it’s hard to say for sure what gets in and what doesn’t, but like last year with Roma, we can be pretty confident in saying that a top Best Picture challenger should have no trouble here.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Atlantics out, Corpus Christi (Poland) in.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Rank Film
1 Apollo 11
2 American Factory
3 For Sama
4 Honeyland
5 The Biggest Little Farm

SPOILER: The Cave

COMMENTS: Like International Feature, it’s sometimes hard to glean the state of this race because its nomination process is so different than most other categories. However, one interesting thing to note is that Honeyland, as a foreign-language documentary, could easily be a double nominee between the two.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Apollo 11 out, Edge of Democracy in. With Apollo 11 shockingly omitted, this feels like American Factory‘s Oscar to lose.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Rank Film
1 Toy Story 4
2 Frozen II
3 How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
4 Missing Link
5 I Lost My Body

SPOILER: Abominable

COMMENTS: Last year’s runaway win for Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse was a rare example of a heavy favorite gaining steam after accumulating passion across the film world in general. This year will likely be far more conventional, with the Disney and Pixar contenders assuming their roles at the front.

REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Frozen II out, Klaus in. For an early prediction, just copy my reactions from Best Documentary, replacing Apollo 11 with Frozen II and American Factory with Toy Story 4.


And there are my predictions for the 2020 Oscar nominations in some of the biggest categories. On Monday, come back and see my prediction scores and immediate reactions.

The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced on Monday, January 13, 2020, in a live broadcast slated to air at 5:18AM Pacific Standard Time.

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