MOVIE BUFF-ET: Oscar predictions 2020: Renée Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix and more


“Joker” was the big winner when Oscar nominations were announced earlier this year with 11 nominations, one more than “1917,” “The Irishman,” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” received, but which movie will be the ultimate champion on Sunday, Feb. 9 when the 92nd annual Academy Awards are presented?

That will be the question that will dominate pop culture once the Super Bowl champion is crowned this Sunday night. Conventional wisdom is that the San Francisco 49ers will be just too tough for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

But what about the Oscars?

Which movie is the odds on favorite to win Best Picture, and which actor and actress will reign as the king and queen of the silver screen for the rest of the year?

Here’s the ol’ Movie Buff’s best guesses in selected categories nine days out from the award ceremony that will be televised at 6:30 p.m. Central Feb. 9 on ABC. The Red Carpet coverage begins at 5:30 p.m.

Best Animated Film

Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World / I Lost My Body / Klaus / Missing Link / Toy Story 4

All five of the nominees are fine movies and well worth watching if you missed them. Sentimentally, I’d vote for “Klaus.” It’s a fun, new, and traditionally animated take on the origin of Santa Claus, and a movie about Santa Claus hasn’t won an Oscar since Edmund Gwenn took home a Best Supporting Actor trophy for his role as Kris Kringle in 1948 for “Miracle on 34th Street.” However, as good is “Klaus” is, “I Lost My Body,” also a Netflix release, is more inventive and innovative. That said, will there be a voter backlash against Netflix, whose films only have a very limited release in theaters? If so, “Toy Story 4” could get the win.

Will Win: I Lost My Body
Should Win: I Lost My Body
Dark Horse: Klaus

Best Score

Nominees: Joker — Hildur Guðnadóttir / Little Women — Alexandre Desplat / Marriage Story – Randy Newman / 1917 — Thomas Newman / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — John Williams

“Joker’s” 11 Oscar nominations was the big win for the film and super-hero movies in general. I think it will lose in nine of those 11 categories, but Best Score won’t be one of them. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score perfectly accentuated Joaquin Phoenix’s every move in the film and deftly set the tone for Todd Phillips’ powerful piece of film-making. I’m glad John Williams got another nomination for what will likely be his final score for a Star Wars movie. This time the score was definitely the best aspect of the movie. Just listening to it, I got all the emotional cues.

Will Win: Joker
Should Win: Joker
My Sentimental Favorite: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — John Williams

Best Cinematography

Nominees: The Irishman — Rodrigo Prieto / Joker — Lawrence Sher / The Lighthouse — Jarin Blaschke / 1917 — Roger Deakins / Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood — Robert Richardson

Best Cinematography may be the hardest category to call. All these films looked great. To me one film stood apart in look and style, and it’s all because of Jarin Blaschke’s work behind the camera for “The Lighthouse.” However, my gut tells me it is going to be a big night for “1917” and this category will go to the ultra-talented Roger Deakins.

Will Win: 1917 — Roger Deakins
Should Win: The Lighthouse — Jarin Blaschke
Dark Horse: Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood — Robert Richardson.

Best Actress

Nominees: Cynthia Erivo – Harriet / Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story / Saoirse Ronan – Little Women / Charlize Theron – Bombshell / Renée Zellweger – Judy

Renée Zellweger seems to still have the momentum for her role as “Judy,” and no doubt she gave a strong performance. Hollywood tends to reward films about show business, and few stories delineate the highs and lows of the business like Judy Garland’s, but the film is such a downer. Personally, I preferred Cynthia Erivo in “Harriet,” Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story” — another downer — and Charlize Theron in “Bombshell.” Saoirse Ronan of “Little Women” is vying to be the next Meryl Streep and is somewhat of an Oscar darling. She could slip in for the win.

Will Win: Renée Zellweger – Judy
Should Win: Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell / Laura Dern – Marriage Story / Scarlett Johansson – JoJo Rabbit / Florence Pugh – Little Women / Margot Robbie – Bombshell

It seems the trophy in this category is Laura Dern’s to lose thanks to her monologuing, husband-hating turn as a divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story.” She’s stunning in the smarmy role. I liked Scarlett Johansson as the mom in “Jojo Rabbit” and Florence Pugh in “Little Women” quite a bit, but it’s impossible to deny Dern’s impact in a flashier role.

Will Win: Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Should Win: Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Dark Horse: Scarlett Johansson – JoJo Rabbit

Best Actor

Nominees: Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory / Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood / Adam Driver – Marriage Story / Joaquin Phoenix – Joker / Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

“Joker” isn’t a pleasant movie whatsoever, but it is a compelling character study of a tortured man losing control. Phoenix’s performance is pitiful and striking all at once as we watch his Arthur Fleck go from being society’s whipping boy to a macabre, mad bully in his own right. Surprises do happen at the Oscars, but Phoenix seems like a slam-dunk winner.

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Dark Horse: Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: 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

This is another packed category with a wide range of top-notch performances. I just don’t see Tom Hanks taking anther trophy home for playing Mister (Fred) Rogers, It would seem like the votes for Joe Pesci and Al Pacino would cancel each other out for their work in “The Irishman,” and like Hanks, they suffer from having other better performances under their belts. Anthony Hopkins is great in “The Two Popes,” but really is in the same boat as the aforementioned three. That leaves Brad Pitt, who was more of a co-star to Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” than a supporting player. Pitt shared an Oscar as the producer of “12 Years A Slave,” but despite being nominated twice for Best Actor in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Moneyball” and once as Best Supporting Actor for “12 Monkeys,” he’s never won. I think that changes this year.

Will Win: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
Should Win: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
Dark Horse: Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes

Best Director

Nominees: The Irishman — Martin Scorsese / JOKER — Todd Phillips / 1917 — Sam Mendes / Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood — Quentin Tarantino / Parasite — Bong Joon Ho.

It’s very hard for me to parse the difference between an Oscar for Best Director and Best Picture. I understand the Best Picture category is meant to honor the best-produced film of the year, but still when I think of who is most influential person in the making of the Best Movie of the year, it’s hard for me not to say the director of the so-called best movie. That said Oscar voters are asked to make that distinction, and to me among the nominated directors, I’d select Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite.” The movie is excellent and fresh in way that none of the other nominated films are. However, much of the buzz seems to be centering around “1917” director Sam Mendes. I think he would be the safe choice if I were betting.

Will Win: 1917 — Sam Mendes
Should Win: Parasite — Bong Joon Ho
Dark Horse: Joker — Todd Phillips

Best Picture

Nominees: Ford v Ferrari / The Irishman / JoJo Rabbit / Joker / Little Women / Marriage Story / 1917 / Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood / Parasite

As mentioned earlier, I think Feb. 9 is going to be a big night for “1917.” The World War I drama seems to be on a roll on the awards circuit, and the film’s cinematography has captured the imagination of the industry with the way Roger Deakins makes the movie appear to have been shot in one, continuous scene. I think it wins Best Picture; however, it’s probably my least favorite film among the nine nominated. The movie didn’t work for me. It wasn’t bad, but it really reminded me of watching someone play a high-class, war video game. My favorite part was the singing of the hymn “Wayfaring Stranger.” I’m not sure I liked it because of the young man’s voice or because I suspected it was near the end of the film. There is a difference between best and favorite movie. One of my criteria for a favorite movie is if I would watch it again. Of the films nominated for an Oscar, to me the most re-watchable movie would be “Ford V Ferrari” followed by “JoJo Rabbit.”

Will Win: 1917
Should Win: Parasite
Most Re-Watchable: Ford v Ferrari

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