This year’s Oscar nominations the strongest in decades
Martin Scorsese, center, directs a scene from The Irishman with actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
January 16, 2020
Finally, we made it. The Oscar nominations have arrived and boy is it a much better crop of nominations than what we’re accustomed to.
Aside from the Academy ignoring the Safdie Brothers’ brilliant Uncut Gems, this year’s crop of flicks make up arguably the best of the last decade.
I’ve been paying close attention to the Oscars since 1994 and, for my money, this is the best overall group of films to be recognized since then. So let’s get to it:
BEST ACTOR (MALE)
It’s a shame that neither Robert De Niro (The Irishman) or Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems) were nominated, but it doesn’t really matter because Joaquin Phoenix is going to win for his performance in Todd Phillips’ excellent Joker.
My second favorite lead performance of the year came from Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), with Adam Driver’s Marriage Story performance close behind. Both were nominated, as were Antonio Banderas (Pedro Almodovar’s Pain & Glory) and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes). Prepare for a very strange acceptance speech from Phoenix.
BEST ACTOR (FEMALE)
As usual, women don’t get quality lead performance opportunities as abundantly as male actors do. So, this category is soft, with Renée Zellweger forecasted to win for her performance in Judy, a movie few people have seen.
I’d like to see fellow nominee Scarlett Johansson win for her brilliant turn in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (which received a solid six nominations). Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) and Charlize Theron (Bombshell) all also nabbed nominations. Don’t be surprised if Theron steals this one.
Sam Mendes’ direction in the technically brilliant 1917 is forecasted to win here, though everyone in the category seems to have a fighting chance this year.
Old Hollywood will likely send a lot of votes Martin Scorsese’s way for his new epic masterpiece, The Irishman, while Film Twitter will be pushing for Parasite director Bong Joon Ho. There’s always an outside chance that box office champ (and most-talked-about film of 2019) Joker dominates this year’s Oscars, and if that happens you can bet that Todd Phillips will surprise with a Best Director win.
My pick would be the fifth nominee, Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time), who has somehow never won a Best Director statue. I think his film was by far the most cinematic and beautifully executed film I saw in 2019.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (FeMale)
Florence Pugh (Little Women), Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Margot Robbie (Bombshell), and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit) all took home nominations, with Dern trending as the favorite by far.
I would not be surprised if Hollywood it-girl Robbie won. Or maybe Pugh (who a lot of critics believe to be the Next Big Thing) will surprise. My money is on Dern.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (Male)
Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), and Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes) make up the male category, with Brad Pitt considered to be a lock. All five of these guys are living legends, and all gave phenomenal performances. But it’s Pitt’s time. Finally.
Nine of this year’s 10 writers (Sam Mendes, Rian Johnson, Tarantino, Baumbach, Joon Ho, Phillips, Greta Gerwig, Taika Waititi, Steven Zaillian, and Anthony McCarten) are household names to cinephile types, with Tarantino (Best Original Screenplay) and Zaillian (Best Adapted Screenplay) predicted to take home the statues.
I think these categories might be a little more wide open that we’re expecting. I could definitely see Baumbach winning for Marriage Story and Gerwig winning for Little Women.
Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t heard, Baumbach and Gerwig are Hollywood’s Golden Couple.
The most important of the technical awards (with Best Editing coming in second), this year’s camera crop features three of the all-time greats: sure-thing winner Roger Deakins for 1917, Rodrigo Prieto for The Irishman, and (my personal pick of the nominees) Robert Richardson for Once Upon a Time. Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse) and Lawrence Sher (Joker) also earned nominations.
This was an abnormally great year for beautiful films, and any of these are worthy of winning. Darius Khonji’s work in Uncut Gems is criminally overlooked in this category.
Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Joker, Once Upon a Time, and James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari dominated this year’s technical nominations. I think these accolades will be split up among 1917 and Ford v Ferrari.
Also, I don’t care a whole lot about these awards, aside from Best Editing, which I think will go to either Ford v Ferrari or the living legend Thelma Schoonmaker (The Irishman).
And here we are, the main event. This is the extremely rare year in which I love every movie nominated.
It’s a diverse crop that includes a blockbuster (Joker), a foreign film (Parasite), a “dad film” (Ford v Ferrari), an epic from an all-time master (The Irishman), a perfectly written arthouse masterpiece (Marriage Story), a film —gasp! — directed by a woman (Little Women), a bizzaro style-comedy (Jojo Rabbit), a production masterpiece (1917), and what will go down as the signature film from one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all-time, (Once Upon a Time).
So many storylines here.
Ultimately I think the conversation will come down to 1917 vs. Joker vs. Once Upon a Time vs. The Irishman, and I have no clue which one will take the statue.
If I were forced to place a bet, I’d probably go with The Irishman.
Or Joker. One of those two.
I can’t recall a year in which there have been this many storylines. Does the blockbuster dominate? Does the foreign film surprise everyone? Does the Scorsese epic sweep? Does the new technical standard steal the show?
I could see Joker, Once Upon a Time, 1917, or The Irishman all sweeping the night. Or I could see the awards being sprinkled about among all the great nominees.
Needless to say, I’m very excited to watch this year’s ceremony, which airs Sunday, Feb. 9, at 8 p.m. on ABC.