“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― The Left Hand of Darkness
The 92nd Academy Awards took place February 9th, 2020 with Bong Joon Ho’s history-making film, “Parasite,” winning Best Picture.
Though not long ago, the world was such a vastly different place. It was that very same day the World Health Organization (WHO) deployed an advanced team to China to assess the seriousness of a new disease caused by the novel coronavirus, named COVID-19. Few of us knew the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor. Giant Murder Hornets were something I would have guessed were a ridiculous Michael Bay creation for some over-the-top bang-bang-shoot-em-up movie. Alex Trebek, Chadwick Boseman, John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Eddie Van Halen were still inspiring the world. Kevin McCallister turned 40, Aunt Becky went to prison, and the Tiger King was credited with saving us during the early days of the pandemic.
A whole lot can happen in a small span of time, right?
On a personal note I was still going into my long-time place of employment daily and was entering my 10th year writing for Awards Circuit with Clayton Davis and the rest of the gang. Things come and things go, and I find myself ending the longest awards season of my life working from home and now writing for the site that first inspired me to get into this endeavor back in 2009. To say it has been a dizzying, significant, and terrifying year is to say the least.
For many of us, the calendar year ends with the Academy Awards. That’s usually easier to say when they take place in early February. This year’s Oscar date extended the award’s season by an additional 10 weeks, pushing the event to April 25th. The annual race to Oscars already seems like an incredibly long run, so I think it is safe to say that most of us are more than ready to turn the page on this elongated year and move on fully into 2021.
With that said, it is time to finalize my Oscar predictions.
For those that like to cut to the chase, the full list can be seen at the usual Good As Gold page. For those that would like to peruse the rationale behind my selections, the following manifesto is for you.
Still with me? Ok, let’s go in order of ease: from the award I am most confident in all the way to the awards that will likely win or lose your Oscar pool this year.
Let’s take a look at the industry awards first though. Note that I do not color code for all awards given to a film. Just the ones that have the most impact for a film (for example Judas and the Black Messiah will not show up as a SAG winner, because SAG represents Ensemble only).
Notice that no single film dominated the precursor trail. While Nomadland won PGA (Producers) and DGA (Directors), that was about it from the Guilds. It benefits from winning BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Scripter, and the Golden Globes, of course, but it’s not a true sweeper. The Trial of the Chicago 7 had the next most impressive awards season, taking SAG (Actors), ACE (Editors), MPSE (Sound Editors), and the Globe Screenplay. Not winning WGA (Writers) might be a heavier loss for Chicago 7’s chances of winning Best Picture than the missing SAG Ensemble nomination is for Nomadland. It should be understood that Mank, the film that led all nominees with ten citations, tied Chicago 7 for the most Guild prize winners, taking the biggest honors from ADG (Art Directors), SDSA (Set Designers), and ASC (Cinematographers).
Will Win: Pete Docter and Dana Murray – Soul
Why/Stats: No film has won this category without a BAFTA nom, which narrows the field to Soul, Wolfwalkers, and Onward. The Animated ACE winner (Soul) has matched with the Oscar winner 10 out of 11 times. Soul has won Globes, Critics’ Choice, PGA, and BAFTA, leaving only a handful of critics group prizes for its competitors. It wins in a walk.
Would have had my vote: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young and Stéphan Roelants – Wolfwalkers
Will Win: Another Round (Denmark)
Why/Stats: Thomas Vinterburg’s “lone director” nomination probably tells you all you need to know. Another Round also won BAFTA and is the only film in the group to be nominated by the Globes. While this category can sometimes be a mischievous little fellow, this is not the year to bet against the favorite.
Would have had my vote: Another Round
Will Win: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Why/Stats: After sweeping the season, Chloe Zhao is destined to become the second woman to win the Best Director Oscar. Zhao won almost every critics prize (including the Critics’ Choice Award – CCA), the Globe, DGA, and BAFTA. Winning DGA put to rest any doubts to her winning Oscar. The DGA is the most accurate precursor during awards season. The winner there has only differed from the eventual Oscar winner for Director nine times in 73 years (88% efficient). Along with being the second female winner in this category, her and fellow nominee Emerald Fennell are only the sixth and seventh women nominated for Best Director. Along with fellow nominee Lee Isaac Chung, the pair became the fifth and sixth directors of Asian descent to be nominated for Best Director.
Would have had my vote: Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
Why/Stats: Aside from giving my favorite performance of the year, Kaluuya swept the major prizes this year: SAG, Globes, BAFTA, and CCA. 11 out of the last 13 SAG winners in this category went on to win the Oscar (85%). While I got just as many things wrong this season, Kaluuya’s victory is something I foretold back in August when the first trailer for the film dropped.
Would have had my vote: Daniel Kaluuya
Will Win: Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés Navarrete, Phillip Bladh- Sound of Metal
Why/Stats: It’s the only nominee with “sound” in the title. I kid… kinda. In all seriousness, many of us have had this one locked for some time now. Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are no longer two separate awards, merging into one less confusing prize for the Academy to vote on. Sound of Metal took home the BAFTA for Sound this year. The BAFTA winner has matched with Oscar eleven (Mixing) and eight (Editing) times in the last 13 years. I have a feeling the alignment of Sound Mixing/Editing into one prize will turn this often-challenging category into one of the easier to predict each year. It should be noted that the Sound Editors guild (MPSE) went a different direction from their Sound Mixing buddies (CAS), with the former awarding Soul and Greyhound while the latter went with the front-runner here.
Would have had my vote: Sound of Metal
Will Win: Ann Roth – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Why/Stats: Another category where the eventual winner dominated the precursor trail: BAFTA, CCA, and the Costume Designer’s Guild (CDG). The Costume Design Oscar-winner has also been nominated for Best Picture five out of the last six years. The only Best Picture nominee in this field is Mank, so if you are looking for an upset, perhaps that’s the way to go. Ann Roth becomes the oldest Oscar nominee ever at 89, a title she shares with James Ivory and Agnès Varda. She is a five-time nominee who won for The English Patient (1996).
Would have had my vote: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Makeup and Hairstyling
Will Win: Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Why/Stats: This is what a broken record sounds like: The film won every major precursor in its path – BAFTA, CCA, and the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild (MUAHS). Hey, this is the “no-brainer” section. What did you expect, some deep-dive analysis?? Mia Neal is the first black woman nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling.
Would have had my vote: Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, and Francesco Pegoretti – Pinocchio
Will Win: Donald Graham Burt (Production Design) and Jan Pascale (Set Decoration) – Mank
Why/Stats: You guessed it: Mank won BAFTA, CCA, ADG, and the newly established Set Decorator’s Society of America (SDSA). Here’s one very interesting stat though – The film with the most overall nominations has won this Oscar 11 times in the last 20 years. Mank was nominated for 10 awards. The next highest is a six-way tie with six nominations.
Would have had my vote: Peter Francis (Production Design) and Cathy Featherstone (Set Decoration) – The Father
Will Win: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste – Soul
Why/Stats: In a year with many impressive scores, it is surprising that one film would sweep the season. Justice for Minari and News of the World, which were nominated, and for Tenet, which was not. Soul won Globes, CCA, and BAFTA.
Would have had my vote: Emile Mosseri – Minari
Front-runners with Potential Spoilers:
Will Win: Youn Yuh-Jung – Minari
Why/Stats: Supporting Actress just missed my no-brainer category by a hair. The fact that Glenn Close exists in this field gives me reason to pause on what would otherwise be a pretty clear victory path for the legendary Korean actress. This is Close’s eighth Oscar nomination. If she were to lose, she would tie Peter O’Toole for most acting nominations without a win. Youn might be the best – and only – place for the Academy to recognize Minari, my favorite movie of the year. Youn won the SAG and BAFTA in this category.
Would have had my vote: Youn Yuh-Jung
Will Win: Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Why/Stats: This one would have been in my “no-brainer” section if it were not for BAFTA’s late push for Anthony Hopkins. Boseman took Globe, SAG, and CCA before losing BAFTA. Nine of the last ten BAFTA winners for Lead Actor went on to win the same category at Oscar. At 83, Hopkins would pass Henry Fonda (76) as the oldest Lead Actor winner ever. Boseman would become the third posthumous acting Oscar-winner (Peter Finch in Network and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight).
Would have had my vote: Chadwick Boseman
Will Win: Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster – My Octopus Teacher
Why/Stats: For a very long time, it felt that this category would be one of the hardest to call. But then one film won PGA, BAFTA, and ACE while the best the other four could muster was a critic’s group prize or two. Along with winning those major awards, My Octopus Teacher also received broad guild support – MPSE, CAS, and DGA all nominated the film for their awards. So why is it not a no-brainer? The Doc winner rarely feels like a safe bet. On top of this, the competition includes one of the more timely docs of the year (Time), a film produced by last year’s winners, the Obamas (Crip Camp), and a film that was nominated for both Doc and International Feature (Collective).
Would have had my vote: My Octopus Teacher
Will Win: Joshua James Richards – Nomadland
Why/Stats: Nomadland won the BAFTA for Cinematography, a precursor that has lined up with Oscar eight years in a row. It wasn’t a huge surprise to see the American Society of Cinematographer’s (ASC) go with the black and white, beautifully shot Mank, but it was a slight departure from what many were considering a near-lock on Oscar night. Nine of the last 17 ASC winners have won Oscar. I’m sticking with BAFTA on what ended up a tighter race than I imagined it would be.
Would have had my vote: Nicolás Wong – La Llorona (not nominated)
Will Win: Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher – Tenet
Why/Stats: My favorite Oscar stat applies here: 17 of the last 20 winners for Visual Effects were also nominated for Art Direction/Production Design. The three exceptions were Spider-Man 2 (2004), Ex Machina (2015), and The Jungle Book (2016). The only film to receive nominations in both categories is Tenet. After winning the Visual Effect Society (VES) award, Netflix’s The Midnight Sky poses the biggest threat to Christopher Nolan’s film winning here. If Tenet were to take home the Oscar, it would be the third Nolan film to win in this category in the past 11 years.
Would have had my vote: Tenet
Animated Short Film
Will Win: Will McCormack and Michael Govier – If Anything Happens I Love You
Why/Stats: According to the New York Times, there have been 147 mass shootings this year (as of 4/16). Very, very topical at the moment. Extremely difficult film to watch. It will pull on a lot of heartstrings.
Would have had my vote: To Gerard (not nominated)
Will Win: Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Why/Stats: This year, the screenplay categories, paired with Film Editing, will be very foretelling to what wins Best Picture. Only four times in Oscar history has a Best Picture winner won Screenplay and Editing but missed Director – Around the World in 80 Days (1956), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Crash (2005), and Argo (2012). Chicago 7 would likely need to become the fifth film to do so in order to win Best Picture, considering Director is a shoo-in for Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao, and Aaron Sorkin was not nominated for Chicago 7. Sorkin’s work has gone up against Fennell’s script on four major occasions, with Fennell winning WGA, BAFTA, and CCA, and Sorkin taking only the Globe. The scoreboard makes it hard to pick Chicago 7 here, and thus, for Best Picture.
Would have had my vote: Aaron Sorkin – Trial of the Chicago 7
Live Action Short
Will Win: Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe – Two Distant Strangers
Why/Stats: Maybe the most relevant film to represent 2020, Two Distant Strangers is as well-timed as it is attention-grabbing – something it manages to hold long after the film ends.
Would have had my vote: Two Distant Strangers
Where You Win or Lose Your Oscar Pool:
Will Win: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Why/Stats: This seems to be a toss-up between Nomadland and The Father. The former won CCA and the US Scripter. The latter won BAFTA. Both lost to Chicago 7 at the Globes and were ineligible for WGA. The Scripter has a pretty strong track record, matching up with the Oscar-winner nine times in 12 years. Most notably perhaps, the Best Picture winning film also won Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted) 12 times in the past 14 years (The Artist and The Shape of Water missed Screenplay in that stretch).
Would have had my vote: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller – The Father
Documentary Short Subject
Will Win: Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers – A Concerto is a Conversation
Why/Stats: One of my favorite categories this year, you could find an additional five Oscar-worthy films from the rest of the shortlisted Docs that did not receive nominations (my favorite of the bunch, The Speed Cubers, included). Concerto is produced by Ava DuVernay and is beautifully scored by the film’s co-director and co-star, Kris Bowers. Portraying an intimate history of a family’s journey between generations, it was the film that stuck with me the longest.
As previously mentioned, there is a lot of competition in the category. I could see any of the other four films winning this Oscar, something I can’t say about any other category on the night. Watch out for A Love Song for Latasha for the relevance of civil uprising following the shooting death of a 15-year-old girl; Colette for its harrowing remembrance of Nazi-occupied France; Hunger Ward for its devastating look at bombed-out Yemen feeding centers; and Do Not Split for its inspiring citizens protesting against the Hong Kong police force. Roll the dice and go with your gut on this one.
Would have had my vote: The Speed Cubers (not nominated)
Will Win: Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth – “Speak Now” One Night in Miami
Why/Stats: I could see “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest taking this due to the fact that it’s the most traditional sounding Song nominee, despite coming from the least traditional of films. Diane Warren received her 11th nomination for “Io Si (Seen)” from The Life Ahead. She is yet to win an Oscar and has had quite the entertaining campaign this year. If voters are aware of her losing streak, I could see them tossing her a career win in a category that lacks a true standout.
In recent years, the Academy has done their best to spread the wealth among its contenders. For the last three years, the film that led the field in wins did so with only four awards. Original Song seems to be the only place to recognize Regina King’s film, One Night in Miami, if they think that way. At the end of the day, I’m betting on the love of Hamilton spilling over to the double-nominated Leslie Odom, Jr.
Would have had my vote: Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson – “Husavik” Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Will Win: Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Why/Stats: What a crazy year it has been for the Lead Actress Oscar! Viola Davis won SAG. Andra Day won Globes. Carey Mulligan won the CCA. Frances McDormand won BAFTA. And Vanessa Kirby, well… she gave my favorite female lead performance of the year, for what that’s worth.
So who do you go with when all things are equal?
McDormand stars in the Best Picture front-runner, but she has already won twice. Might they look elsewhere?
Mulligan is the most overdue of the five, considering Davis and McDormand have already won, and Kirby and Day are relative newcomers. But Oscar loves its ingenue in this category, so…
We have had one Black Oscar-winning lead actress in 92 years. There is a large, undeniable feeling we are overdue for a second. Pair that feeling with this stat: Lead Actress has lined up with either SAG (Davis) or Globes (Day) all the way back to 1985. (Geraldine Page won the Actress Oscar in 1985 for The Trip to Bountiful – SAG wasn’t around, Globe went to Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple) for Drama and Kathleen Turner (Prizzi’s Honor) for Comedy).
Day could win simply for the fact that she rose above the shortcomings of her film, singing her heart out in the biopic. Her singing could be looked at as a second achievement within the performance.
While I am tempted to choose Day, I landed on Viola Davis for this reason: If you are between Day and Davis, doesn’t it make sense to have Viola be the second Black Lead Actress winner? Davis has been nominated for acting Oscars more than any Black actress in Academy history (four times), so doesn’t it make sense to have her on that super short list of Black Lead Actress winners? The respect and love is there. So might be the Oscar.
Would have had my vote: Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Will Win: Mikkel E. G. Nielsen – Sound of Metal
Why/Stats: It’s ACE vs BAFTA here. ACE went for the more traditional film, Chicago 7. BAFTA went for a more contemporary challenger, Sound of Metal. One of the two ACE winners has gone on to win the Oscar 22 times in the last 29 years, while nine of the last 13 BAFTA winners have won the Oscar. Something’s gotta give, right? In the last 20 years, the movie that won the Film Editing Oscar went on to win at least one of the Sound Oscars 13 times (five of those 13 won BOTH Sound Oscars). Film Editing and Sound winners have matched up seven years in a row. If we expect Sound of Metal to win Sound, should we not be expecting it to win here as well?
Would have had my vote: Alan Baumgarten – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Will Win: Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, Producers – Nomadland
Why/Stats: There are so many reasons to pick Nomadland to win. So why does it not feel as locked up to me as it has for so many others for so long? You might remember I was one of the last to holdout for The Trial of the Chicago 7 winning Best Picture, something I still believe could happen despite the fact that it might not win a single other Oscar. If Chicago 7 were to pull off the sole Best Picture win, it would be the fourth film to do so, and the first in 86 years. If Chicago 7 would have won with the Writer’s Guild (WGA), I’d likely still be picking it. The trio of SAG/ACE/WGA would have been enticing enough for me to go out on a limb.
I made the switch to Nomadland after it won the PGA. Throughout the season, I was betting on Chicago 7 to win SAG Ensemble (it did) and Nomadland to win DGA (it did). I was also counting on Nomadland missing a SAG Ensemble nomination (it did). The only films to win Best Picture without a SAG Ensemble nomination are Braveheart (1995), The Shape of Water (2017), and Green Book (2018). The PGA was going to be my tiebreaker because they use a preferential balloting system that’s similar to that used by AMPAS. For whatever reason, I didn’t think Nomadland would do well on the preferential ballot (it did).
Including this year, the DGA and PGA have matched winners 24 times in the 32 years PGA has existed. Out of the previous 23 matches, 15 went on to win both Picture and Director Oscars. If Nomadland pulls off both major Oscar wins, it will be the seventh film in the preferential ballot era to do so (The Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech, The Artist, Birdman, The Shape of Water, and Parasite).
Would have had my vote: Christina Oh, Producer – Minari
So there you have it. It was a long, challenging 2020, with twists and turns that none of us could see coming. I believe we are in store for more of the same on Oscar night, though where those surprises pop up are anyone’s guess.