fb-pixel

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it right now: The Oscars are not a barometer of quality. They are not a metric of a film’s lasting worth. They represent one thing and one thing only: the films and performances that make Academy voters feel good about themselves — proud of what they do and who they do it for — at the nanosecond they fill out their ballots. The Academy Awards that will be handed out in the Dolby Theatre are thus a core sample of how the voting members, all 8,700 or so of them, felt as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, when online voting ended.

Who will win? I’ve made my best guesses below, as I do every year, and every year I bat around .667, great for baseball, not so hot for the Oscars. For a variety of reasons, the 2020 ceremonies appear to be more predictable than usual: The “1917” tidal wave is at the very crest of its momentum and could sweep the beach clean, unless the dark undertow of “Parasite” saps its energy. We’ll take what surprises we can get in an event that turns 92 this year — 92! — and doesn’t look a day older than a face-lifted 70.

Advertisement



George MacKay (center) in "1917."
George MacKay (center) in "1917." François Duhamel/Associated Press

Picture

Will Win: “1917”

Should Win: “Parasite”

Shouldn’t Be Here: “Joker”

Was Robbed: “Knives Out”

There’s something to be said for timing: The late 2019 release of “1917,” coupled with its immersive one-take, you-are-there approach, has given the Sam Mendes World War I epic the push to go over the top for an easy (and popular) win. Could dark horse “Parasite” come from behind and be the first foreign-language film ever to win best picture? Stranger things have happened — remember the “Moonlight”/”La La Land“ mix-up of 2017? — but probably not this year. “Knives Out” is the kind of smart, well-made movie the studios used to turn out without breaking a sweat, so of course it’s not nominated.

Advertisement



Dean-Charles Chapman (left), director Sam Mendes, and George MacKay on the set of "1917."
Dean-Charles Chapman (left), director Sam Mendes, and George MacKay on the set of "1917." François Duhamel/Associated Press

Director

Will Win: Sam Mendes

Should Win: Bong Joon-ho

Shouldn’t Be Here: Todd Phillips

Was Robbed: Greta Gerwig

The Directors Guild win and his Golden Globe mean that Mendes will very likely pick up his second Oscar for directing, 20 years after he won for “American Beauty.” Bong Joon-ho has been spiking the awards punch bowl all season, though, and “Parasite” is as intricately masterful as “1917” is big and bravura. There are at least four women directors who could be part of this conversation in place of “Joker”’s Phillips, but Gerwig is the most obvious and shameful omission.

Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker."
Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker." Niko Tavernise/Associated Press

Actor in a Leading Role

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix

Should Win: Antonio Banderas

Shouldn’t Be Here: Jonathan Pryce

Was Robbed: Adam Sandler

There’s been some late-in-the-day pushback against Phoenix’s “Joker” performance as too showily agonized, and the actor hasn’t done himself many favors on the awards podium recently. But no one doubts his talent or his commitment, and no one doubts he’ll walk away with his first acting Oscar in four rounds. Banderas’s subtle, mournful work in “Pain and Glory” is the keeper. And Sandler deserves to be here — you just don’t want to admit it.

Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in "Judy."
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in "Judy." David Hindley/LD Entertainment/Roadside Attractions

Actress in a Leading Role

Will Win: Renée Zellweger

Should Win: Scarlett Johansson

Shouldn’t Be Here: Charlize Theron

Was Robbed: Lupita Nyong’o

Has an actress won this award for a movie no one gave much thought to otherwise? You bet: Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), Kate Winslet (“The Reader”), and Jessica Lange (“Blue Sky”) are just three examples. With a performance in “Judy” that’s as outsize and occasionally grotesque as late-era Garland herself, Zellweger is a lock for her second Academy Award (the first was a supporting statue for “Cold Mountain”). Theron’s fine “Bombshell” performance was arguably upstaged by her prosthetics; if what Nyong’o does in “Us” isn’t awards-worthy, then nothing is.

Advertisement



Brad Pitt in "Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood."
Brad Pitt in "Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood." Andrew Cooper/Associated Press

Actor in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Brad Pitt

Should Win: Brad Pitt

Shouldn’t Be Here: Al Pacino

Was Robbed: Tracy Letts

If I had told you 20 years ago — 10, even — that Brad Pitt would be a lock for an acting Oscar while Leonardo DiCaprio would be going home empty-handed, well, I would like to have seen the look on your face. What’s most satisfying is that Pitt’s Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood” is a star turn that fits like a T-shirt and a magnanimous piece of acting to boot. Playwright-actor Letts belongs here on the strength of his crying scene in “Ford v. Ferrari” alone; I’d reluctantly kick Pacino out to make room.

Laura Dern (left) and Scarlett Johansson in "Marriage Story."
Laura Dern (left) and Scarlett Johansson in "Marriage Story." WILSON WEBB/Associated Press

Actress in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Laura Dern

Should Win: Florence Pugh

Shouldn’t Be Here: Kathy Bates

Was Robbed: Jennifer Lopez

As with Phoenix, Zellweger, and Pitt, Dern in “Marriage Story” has been the odds-on favorite in her category for months now. Her tartly warm Marmee in “Little Women” doesn’t hurt, nor does her career renaissance of recent years (“Big Little Lies,” “The Last Jedi,” etc.), nor does the fact that she’s a much-loved second-generation Hollywood trouper with a nose for risk. I’d love to see Pugh win, but you can bet she’ll be up there collecting a trophy in years to come. Lopez resurrected her acting career and owns “Hustlers” — surely that’s worth a little Academy love?

Advertisement



Yeo-jeong Jo in "Parasite."
Yeo-jeong Jo in "Parasite." Associated Press

Original Screenplay

Will Win: “Parasite”

Should Win: “Knives Out”

I’m kidding a little; no one would be happier than me to see Bong Joon-ho accept this award and take Hollywood slyly to task by way of his interpreter. But Rian Johnson’s script for “Knives Out” is so beautifully constructed and witty that I wish it had come out in a different year. Note: “Parasite” would be not the first but the fifth foreign-language film to win this award. Can you name the others? “The Red Balloon” (1956), “Divorce Italian Style” (1962), “A Man and a Woman” (1966), and “Talk to Her” (2002)

Taika Waititi (left) and Roman Griffin Davis in "Jojo Rabbit."
Taika Waititi (left) and Roman Griffin Davis in "Jojo Rabbit." Kimberley French/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: “Jojo Rabbit”

Should Win: "Little Women”

As much as “Jojo Rabbit” plays like a Taika Waititi movie, daring and antic, it is in fact based on Christine Leunens’s much more straightforward 2008 novel, “Caging Skies.” That the book has been so thoroughly Waititi-ized will probably guarantee the win. Gerwig managed to reshuffle the timeline of “Women” while staying closer to Louisa May Alcott’s intentions than any other film version has.

Advertisement



"Toy Story 4"
"Toy Story 4"Pixar/Associated Press

Animated Feature

Will Win: “Toy Story 4”

Should Win: “I Lost My Body”

Honestly, this category is a complete toss-up. “Missing Link” won the Golden Globe, “Klaus” dominated the Annies animation awards, and France’s “I Lost My Body” won over the critics. Given that traffic snarl — and the fact that all the nominees are deserving — expect voters to take the easy way out with Woody and the gang.

International Feature Film

Will Win: “Parasite”

Should Win: “Parasite”

Bong Joon-ho’s devilish social satire, a South Korean mash-up of Hitchcock and Bunuel, is closing in on $200 million worldwide, has finally broken the director big in America, and fits the angry temper of our times like no other nominated film. It’s the actual best picture of the year, but this and a writing award will probably have to suffice.

Documentary Feature

Will Win: “American Factory”

Should Win: any of them

Five worthy and at times overpowering films, and the fact that many are already available via on-demand platforms means they may reach more viewers than a Oscar documentary slate ever has. “Factory,” a provocative portrait of a Chinese-run plant in Ohio, has been on a roll since Sundance 2019, and the fact that it’s produced by Barack and Michelle Obama doesn’t hurt.

Visual Effects

Will Win: “The Lion King”

Should Win: “1917”

A tight race, but voters went for Disney’s digitized “Jungle Book” in 2017, and the company’s latest box-office beast may repeat the trick. Mendes’s seamless combining of different shots into one long take, with added effects, is more artful work than the Mouse House’s copycat games.

Cinematography

Will Win: “1917”

Should Win: “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood”

As we move deeper into the craft categories, “1917” stands to dominate, with voters honoring the technical sleight of hand that makes the film look so “simple.” Also: Now that camera legend Roger Deakins has finally won a cinematography Oscar (for “Blade Runner 2049”) after 15 tries, he’ll probably keep winning.

Film Editing

Will Win: “Ford v Ferrari”

Should Win: “Parasite”

As always, Academy voters tend to confuse “best editing” with “most editing,” which doesn’t mean Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland’s canny vroom-vroom work on “Ford v Ferrari” doesn’t deserve it. But Yang Jinmo’s cutting on “Parasite” is a subtle master class in misdirection and suspense.

Sound Editing

Will Win: “1917”

Should Win: “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood”

Sound editing collects the sounds; sound mixing folds them together on a film’s soundtrack. “1917” will score in both categories due to its sonic palette on a very large canvas, but it’s possible “Ford v Ferrari” will repeat here. Tarantino’s re-creation of the sounds of 1969 — the car radio jingles! — is a work of art for the ears.

Sound Mixing

Will Win: “1917”

Should Win: “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood”

See above.

Production design

Will Win: “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood”

Should Win: “Parasite”

By contrast, Tarantino’s re-creation of the look of Hollywood 1969 will probably take the prize here, so detailed and close to home will it seem to Academy voters. Fine by me, but the house in “Parasite” — built from scratch along with all the exteriors — is a brilliant stage for the movie’s mayhem.

Costume Design

Will Win: “Little Women”

Should Win: “Little Women”

This category almost always falls head over heels for period pieces, and Jacqueline Durran’s costumes for “Little Women” are both witty and true to their time. Plus, this is a way to acknowledge Gerwig’s film when it gets shut out elsewhere. Possible spoiler: “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood.”

Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: “Bombshell”

Should Win: “Bombshell”

They made Charlize Theron look like somebody else. That’s creepy enough for a win in this category.

Original Score

Will Win: “Joker”

Should Win: “Little Women”

An Oscar for Hildur Guðnadóttir’s darkly swirling “Joker” music would acknowledge a highbrow nominee and a rare win for a woman in a crowded boy’s club. It’s a great score — and so is Alexandre Desplat’s trippingly lovely work for “Little Women”.

Original Song

Will Win: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again (Rocketman)”

Should Win: “Stand Up”

Taron Egerton may have missed out on a best actor nomination for playing Elton John, but Sir Elton himself will not be denied. Unless the nobler sentiments of the theme for “Harriet,” sung by star Cynthia Erivo, prevail.

Documentary Short

Will Win: "Learning to Skate in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”

Should Win: “In the Absence”

An excellent but downbeat group of nominees, which means that the award most likely will go to the relatively hopeful film about young women learning to express themselves (and skateboard) in war torn Afghanistan. “Absence” details the 2014 Korean ferry sinking with horrifying clarity.

Live Action Short

Will Win: “Brotherhood”

Should Win: “The Neighbors’ Window”

Another strong category, and it may be a toss-up between the father-son showdown of Tunisia’s “Brotherhood” — a film with the power of classical drama — and the more familiar “Window,” a Manhattan tale that shifts effortlessly from comedy to poignant drama.

Animated Short

Will Win: “Hair Love”

Should Win: “Memorable”

“Hair Love,” about a Black dad’s battle with his daughter’s hair is cute and heart-warming enough to win, but it’s awfully schmaltzy, and the animation is rudimentary. Two darker works, “Dcera (Daughter)” and “Memorable,” use papier-mâché and clay, respectively, to create more original and far more moving imaginary worlds.



Ty Burr can be reached at ty.burr@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.