The calendar has flipped to February, and it’s time to make some Academy Awards predictions. Typing that is unusual—so soon? Didn’t the Chiefs just win the Super Bowl? 2019 was unquestionably one of the decade’s best years purely for breadth of quality at the movies, and it’s a bit of a shame that the conversation about which ones do and don’t deserve to be cinematically canonized is being sliced short by a few weeks, as if Oscar knows that the weight of what he brings – in gold and in history – doesn’t match up to the legacy that the year has already created for itself.
So here we are, just a couple of weeks removed from the Golden Globes and the new decade still in its very early days, and we’re about to put a bow on the last one. Might the abbreviated Oscar season have led to some surprises? We won’t know for sure until Sunday, but it’s notable that a Best Picture race broadly considered one of the most uniquely wide open campaigns as recently as on New Year’s has come down to arguably two frontrunners, perhaps three.
Meanwhile, predictions that a few months ago might have been shots in the dark when it comes to this year’s acting categories mostly feel like surefire locks now, to say nothing of the performances left on the outside looking in. The biggest chaos agent as far as nominee groupings go seems, at this point in time, to lie over in Best Animated Feature, where Netflix’s “Klaus” and “I Lost My Body” stole a spot from Disney’s monolithic “Frozen II.” A victory for Pixar isn’t a sure bet there by any means.
With that being said, here is where my gut is leaning in regards to what will unfold on Sunday evening—as well as what I believe should win, and a sixth nominee I would have liked to see recognized. Make sure to return over the course of the week; we are starting with predictions for the acting categories, and will continue adding as the week goes on. By Friday, you’ll see all 24 on here, including Best Picture.
Happy prediction-making. Let’s get started.
Should win: “Parasite”
It’s rare that the actual best picture of the year is a legitimate frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s even rarer that an international movie is a nominee (there have now been 12). But in that position does South Korea’s “Parasite” find itself. Bong Joon-ho’s masterwork excites from start to finish in ways few movies aspire to, let alone achieve—and in this year’s Best Picture field, “Parasite” is easily the film that most represents what we talk about when we talk about thoughtful, meaningful, satisfying, full-bodied, vital cinema.
Will win: “1917”
Universal and Sam Mendes’s gamble to release their single-take WWI drama so late in the abbreviated Oscars game – days after it won the Golden Globe for Best Drama, in early January – is one that Howard Ratner would be proud of. Once upon a time the Best Picture discussion centered on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “The Irishman” and “Joker,” and while the Academy could very well show a heretofore largely-unseen progressive side of itself and award the Oscar to the international film for the first time ever, recency bias is evidently a very real thing. I’m not solely referring to “1917’s” dominating awards season, but to 2015’s “Birdman,” which proved that single-take visual mastery was enough to overcome being a bizarre and decidedly non-Oscars story to win the top prize just a few years ago. There’s no discussing “1917” without discussing its technical achievement—and it’s the surface-level thematic resonance and aesthetic superiority of it that Academy voters have tended to flock to in the 2010s. Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is the only war film that’s won Best Picture this century. “1917” will be the next.
Should’ve been nominated: “Midsommar”
For the injection of sheer, bear-skinned wickedness that the conversation surrounding the Oscars – a silly thing I love to obsess over – deserves.
Should win: Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
There is no place that “Parasite” – with its delicate genre-balancing act, magnificent sense of precision and knowing universality – could have come except from the mind of Bong Joon-ho, who’s been steadily honing his craft for nearly 20 years. He’s the centrifugal force behind every one of the film’s elements harmonizing—the acting, the production design, the screenplay, the music, the “Jessica/only child” jingle we can’t get out of our heads, the heart-wrenching truths of its final minutes we wish we could. Quentin Tarantino can toy around with history, Martin Scorsese with his legacy, Sam Mendes with our sense and Todd Phillips with aesthetics—but Joon-ho is the one who’s made a movie that I most hope signals what cinema brings in the new decade.
Will win: Sam Mendes, “1917”
“1917” is a technical achievement that did something no one had ever seen from the war genre, no matter if the result arguably loses its appeal in totality on anything smaller than a theater screen. Nonetheless, that kind of appeal – of doing the most, or most noticeable, directing – has been enough over the last decade to ink the winner of the Best Director Oscar. Remember Ang Lee winning for “Life of Pi,” Alfonso Cuarón winning for “Gravity,” Alejandro Iñárritu winning for “Birdman, winning again for “The Revenant,” Damien Chazelle winning for “La La Land.” You get the idea. I’m not convinced the trend snaps this year, not when Mendes has precursor-award momentum on his side.
Should’ve been nominated: Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”
Gerwig’s snub is a confounding one. At a time when the movie industry’s major commercial power players continue to mine nostalgia, intellectual property and surface-level creative innovation, Gerwig’s “Little Women” rings as a confident and immaculate torch-bearer for how to modernize a story we only think we know so well. Todd Phillips’s clown may dance and Sam Mendes’s camera may endure, but Gerwig’s storytelling rejuvenates.
Should win: Antonio Banderas, “Pain & Glory” (“Dolor y Gloria”)
Banderas’s first Oscar nomination comes by way of him playing a fictionalized, creatively-stalled version of his longtime friend, collaborator and director Pedro Almodóvar in this exceptional Spanish-language movie, in which Banderas manifests tenderness by way of ticking-clock reflection. The camera adores Banderas’s face, often letting it fill the frame, and for good reason—he translates entire manifestos of quiet desperation in solitary, silent glances.
Will win: Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Could we ever figure out why it took 20 years and numerous worthy roles for Phoenix to finally become the frontrunner of an acting race at the Oscars, for a flashy and ostensibly difficult role as a character the Academy honored another portrayal of just a decade ago? Of course we can. The only way Phoenix could be more of a lock for Best Actor is if he’d sung Sondheim himself in Todd Phillips’s indulgently narcissistic crime drama. The stairs will do.
Should’ve been nominated: Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”
A comeback narrative I would’ve fully taken up arms to support. Alas, like one of Rudy Ray Moore’s spitfire verses, the conversation seemed to have sped by as fast as it arrived.
Should win: Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
The most thrilling long take of the year belongs not to “1917,” but to a monologue Johansson‘s Nicole delivers early in “Marriage Story” to her lawyer, in which she tells the story of how she and Charlie met, and how a spark devolved into inevitable separation. It’s a story of love over the span of years, and it unfolds in a series of impeccably-delivered lines and self-searching stares. She’s fantastic.
Will win: Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
I wager we’ll see a surprise in this category for the second straight year, and my crutch is the admittedly-fragile belief that the combination of narratives (the first nomination, the career legacy) will outpace the split dissemination of votes between this and Johansson’s other Oscar-nominated turn over in Best Supporting Actress. If logic prevails and Renée Zellweger grabs her second Academy Award, we’re going to have to start reckoning with how we cement Oscar victories at the release of first-look photos, especially when it comes to how much of that conversation can be shared for other deserving performances.
Should’ve been nominated: Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
Must I really explain myself?
Best Supporting Actor
Should win: Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
In a three-and-a-half-hour film simply brimming with triumphs, Pesci is its most resonant, balancing the zeal of Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa with quiet authority and contrasting the numbing killer instincts of Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran with heartbreaking inevitability. I suspect the image of a past-his-time, imprisoned Russell Bufalino still delicately tearing away at his bread after dipping it in grape juice – the culinary ritual that evolves from decorum to surrender over the course of the movie – will remain with me for years. Pesci deserves his second Oscar. But I won’t be enraged when it goes to who it will go to. It’s what it is.
Will win: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Suddenly, this feels like it could be the only award that Quentin Tarantino’s fantasia of 1960s Los Angeles will walk away with come Sunday night. Not that anyone could argue it—for a Tarantino movie that has characteristically blossomed many a critical conversation, Pitt’s squeaky-cool and damned funny performance as a stuntman who’s perfectly content lagging a step or two behind everyone around him has been its one constant in the months since the film’s release. When he lit up an acid cigarette with the words “And awayyyy we go,” he may as well have been referring to his inevitable awards campaign. His first career Oscar statuette will be the most crowd-pleasing of this year’s actor honorees.
Should’ve been nominated: Juan Ramón López, “Tigers Are Not Afraid” (“Vuelven”)
This young actor’s devastating, reality-echoing turn in Issa López’s Peter Pan-esque dark fantasy was the best child performance in a year stocked with great child performances, and hammers home with eerie truth the effects of cartel violence on Mexican families and bonds below the border.
Best Supporting Actress
Should win: Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
An absolute firecracker in Greta Gerwig’s masterful adaptation, and the supporting performance that consistently rises to the top of a luxurious number of fantastic supporting performances. Pugh is charged with one of 2019’s toughest tasks in translating the gulf of time, intentionality and conviction separating her from bouncy teen and resolute adult; she handles it to a near-miraculous degree. I’d love to see the Academy recognize one of the year’s most dynamic breakout performers.
Will win: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
You could argue that Dern’s turn as the adaptable lawyer in Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama splits the difference between her two other major 2019 roles, the scene-chewing Renata Klein in “Big Little Lies” and scene-marinating Marmee in “Little Women.” Will winning her first Academy Award be the apex of Dern’s busy last few years, or does that come later with the sixth “Jurassic Park” picture?
Should’ve been nominated: The women of “Parasite”
Jo Yeo-jeong as the precise and precisely naïve affluent mother. Park So-dam as the cunning teen who’s too smart to live below street level. Jang Hye-jin as the housemaid whose clear air of knowing superiority still yields surprise. Perhaps the Academy’s inability to decide which cogs of Bong Joon-ho’s broadly-stunning ensemble most deserves a nomination is the reason none of them did, but there’s just as strong a case that more than one – maybe even three – of this category’s five slots could have been filled with actresses from “Parasite.”
Should win: “1917”
Similar to “The Revenant” a few years back, I’m more interested in the idea of a documentary explaining how visual maestro Roger Deakins stayed upright on his own two feet to accomplish what he accomplishes with “1917” more than I’m interested by “1917” itself. That being said, the shot of a bombed-out European town brought back to life – a mass of zombified rubble – by flares flying overhead is one of the more operatic and ironically elegaic things I saw on a big screen last year.
Will win: “1917”
“Birdman” – another film constructed to look like it was shot in a single take – won this award just five years ago. A year later, the Academy chose “The Revenant”—a movie that feels like it was absolute hell to shoot any single minute of. “1917” is practically both of those things—achievement by way of camera-operator masochism. This is the biggest Oscars lock for this year outside of the acting categories.
Should’ve been nominated: “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
You better bet Joe Talbot’s under-seen feature debut was every bit as gorgeous as its trailer would suggest.
Best Original Screenplay
Should win: “Parasite”
Bong Joon-ho’s multilayered, multidimensional movie isn’t the triumph that it is without first laying its seeds in the screenplay, with Joon-ho wrote with longtime collaborator Han Jin-won. And – with all due respect to Quentin Tarantino, Rian Johnson and Noah Baumbach – the Original Screenplay Oscar can’t be awarded to a film that doesn’t come close to the white-hot originality of “Parasite.”
Will win: “Parasite”
I think this award will be the top honor that a still-very-conservative Academy will bestow on the relenting freshness of “Parasite.” I very much invite the voting body to prove me wrong.
Should’ve been nominated: “The Nightingale”
Jennifer Kent’s bold and brutal “Babadook” follow-up is nothing if not utterly challenging for anyone who ventures to watch it. The film has sights that are shocking – necessarily so – and the screenplay forces an about-face on colonialism’s vicious impact. It’s an immensely important document.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Should win: “Little Women”
Greta Gerwig sees your insistence that you could not be more familiar with Louisa May Alcott’s 152-year-old novel, and raises you a bar-raising work of remixing and modernization that – in theory – is everything that Best Adapted Screenplay should honor.
Will win: “Jojo Rabbit”
One of the lesser-complicated screenplays in this year’s Adapted bunch, and the saccharine nominee that will sucker in voters who awarded “Green Book’s” screenplay a year ago.
Should’ve been nominated: “Hustlers”
Lorene Scafaria’s movie is as confident as the anti-heroines at its center, and also as sleekly dangerous. The screenplay recreates a time, a mood and a motivation that drives everything else about “Hustlers.”
Best International Feature
Should win: "Parasite" (South Korea)
"Pain and Glory" is gorgeous and "Honeyland" is dazzling, but the meticulously-crafted "Parasite's" sights are rightfully set higher on Oscar night. The only conversation to be had here is whether there are enough Academy voters who adore Korean director Bong Joon-ho's movie enough to make it their Best Picture pick and who also want to share the love on Oscar night, resulting in another international flick being honored here.
Will win: "Parasite" (South Korea)
A category with at least two other films that are among the year's very best – international or not – won't matter when "Parasite" grabs its first assured win on Oscar night. It's easy to understand why the latest work of genre-blending, thrilling filmmaking from Joon-ho has become a major hit with American audiences, and the movie's six total nominations indicates similar support from the Academy.
Should've been nominated: "Ash is Purest White" (China)
Director Jia Zhangke's years-spanning odyssey of love lost in the waves of time has the storytelling verve of a gangster epic but the emotional trappings of being stuck in a single moment while everything else advances, modernizes, speeds up around you. I'd encourage anyone who's reading to seek it out.
Best Animated Feature
Should win: “I Lost My Body”
The movie that’s even better than another stop-motion treat from Laika and bolder than Pixar’s “Toy Story” epilogue is a cosmic story from Netflix about a severed hand finding its way back to its owner. The fact that this strange and daring French film made the cut over Disney’s box office-busting “Frozen II” makes me hopeful for what the Academy considers innovative animation storytelling.
Will win: “Klaus"
Sure, Pixar is still a giant in the animation game, but Netflix’s other contender in this category is the more innovative entry in style and story, and it got an unexpected momentum boost from the Annie Awards—considered the highest honors in animation.
Should’ve been nominated: N/A
It wasn’t a particularly strong year for animation, and this year’s Oscar contenders truly represent the best the genre had to offer. If only we could say that about every category.
Best Documentary Feature
Should win: “Honeyland”
“Honeyland” and “American Factory” are two of 2019’s very best movies regardless of genre, eschewing the trap of talking heads to reveal a new corner of the world and portray a literal culture clash in a reborn Detroit factory. They both raise the bar for documentary filmmaking, but Tamar Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov’s “Honeyland” is a miracle of the form that takes the concept of bearing witness to emotional, universal heights.
Will win: "American Factory"
“Honeyland’s” dual-nomination between this category and Best International Feature indicates support, but also places it squarely in the split-vote dilemma. Meanwhile, recent Oscars history shows that voters tend to go for the documentary achievement that keeps its focus on an American subject, whether wholeheartedly or tangentially. “For Sama” – about the evolving situation this decade in Syria – is a strong contender for the victory, but I think the Obama-produced “American Factory” takes it.
Should’ve been nominated: “Hail Satan?”
Penny Lane’s excellent eye-opener of a doc illuminates the rampant hypocrisy infesting modern politics as much as it illuminates the true goals and tactics of the modern Satanic Temple.
Best Original Score
Should win: “Little Women”
Randy Newman’s lovingly-composed, feather-footed work for “Marriage Story” functions as a mediator in Charlie and Nicole’s evolving relationship, but Alexandre Desplat’s “Little Women” score is as tangible and weighty as anything the often-great composer has done. Its malleable composition goes a long way towards making the tonal ping-ponging of Greta Gerwig’s film work, to ends that are grand and whimsical.
Will win: “Joker”
Expect a comic book movie to take home this Oscar for the second straight year. The strings in Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score are operatically abrasive – and inseparable from Arthur Fleck’s bathroom dance, perhaps the film’s most referred-to sequence – and its stressful swells are arguably pulling the most weight in Todd Phillips’s pseudo-psychological Scorsese skit. The stage is set for this award to go to a woman composer for the first time in more than 20 years.
Should’ve been nominated: “Uncut Gems”
You can imagine Daniel Lopatin’s jazzy, all-consuming work for “Uncut Gems” as the soundscape that lies in wait inside the raw mass of Ethiopian opal, encapsulating the obsessive and inevitable spirit of the Safdie Bros’ frantic drama.
Best Original Song
Should win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from “Rocketman”
An extraordinarily weak group of contenders in what’s become a reliably-weak category in recent years makes this an easy pick. “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” ain’t no “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” but it’s a jaunty jam that encapsulates the triumphant finale of Dexter Fletcher’s musical biopic.
Will win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from “Rocketman”
The Academy won’t just want to see Elton John perform on Oscar night. They’ll want to see him back on the stage to accept his second Oscar, not in the least as a way to pat themselves on the back for booting Taron Egerton out of the Best Actor race just when he was gaining traction.
Should’ve been nominated: “Glasgow (No Place Like Home),” from “Wild Rose”
It seems to only make sense that a crowd-pleasing, lung-busting song that is as integral to the film it was written for as it seems to be an epic emotional experience to listen to live was omitted from the nominees. “Glasgow” is the victor in my heart.
Best Production Design
Should win: “Parasite”
The exacting precision of Bong Joon-ho’s thriller extends to the sleekly affluent Park house and the cavernous abode of the destitute Kim clan—both locales that were constructed from scratch for the movie. And the intention fueling “Parasite’s” production design informs the movie’s themes as much as its screenplay, to an even larger degree than the period-accurate reconstruction of Quentin Tarantino’s New Hollywood or the realization of a corrupt, mob-controlled America in “The Irishman.”
Will win: “Parasite”
The sleek cars, time-warped radio jingles and neon signs of “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” makes this a close race, but the details behind Lee Ha-jun’s immaculate work on the geographic considerations of “Parasite” – specifically the construction of the Park mansion, made up of multiple sets – have become one of the most impressive and undeniable stories of this Oscar season, and at the perfect point in the race.
Should’ve been nominated: “The Souvenir”
The lessons of Joanna Hogg’s reflective, barbed-wire story of first love manifest themselves in the details of the England apartment the story largely takes place in. There’s a uniqueness to “The Souvenir” in how it makes vibrant the muted colors of its visual style, and the pristine 1980s details – a desk lamp, a subtle painting, a wall of mirrored glass – are vital to achieving that effect.
Best Costume Design
Should win: “Little Women”
The best costumes, to me, never call attention to themselves while helping to transport the viewer to specific time, and while instilling a specific atmosphere. The dresses, tophats and overcoats of Gerwig’s domestic drama accomplish that better than the other contenders here.
Will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
The clothes worn by Rick Dalton, Cliff Both, Sharon Tate and Co. are as nostalgic as the radio station static and classic cars in Tarantino’s 1960s-set fairy tale.
Should’ve been nominated: “Dolemite Is My Name”
The case could be made for “Dolemite’s” representation in several categories, despite it being totally absent at this year’s awards. This snub, for Ruth E. Carter’s work, is the most egregious.
Best Visual Effects
Should win: “The Lion King”
It is precisely because the effects in the classic Disney remake that the Mouse House so desperately wants you to believe is live-action (it’s animated) work so eerily well that everything else about the movie falls so flat. With all respect to Thanos and the Avengers, the photorealistic African landscapes and animals that populate them make “The Lion King” deserving of this award.
Will win: “The Lion King”
Did you know a comic book movie hasn’t won this award since “Spider-Man 2” all the way back in 2005? The possibility is very much alive that the Academy recognizes the successful 11-year Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment by honoring “Avengers: Endgame” here,” and just as likely that voters lean to the de-aging magic of “The Irishman” or illustrious one-shot illusion of “1917.” But given that Jon Favreau’s previous live-action-talking-animals-extravaganza “The Jungle Book” was awarded Best Visual Effects three years ago, and given its triumph at the Visual Effects Society Awards last month, I think Simba gets the Oscar here.
Should’ve been nominated: “Alita: Battle Angel’
Not that he’s itching for an Oscar, but the James Cameron-produced movie – released last spring – deserved to be considered in Best Visual Effects for its magnificent motion-capture work, detailed creation of a dystopian city and thrilling Motorball sequences.
Best Film Editing
Should win: “The Irishman”
Thelma Schoonmaker might be one of the most important Hollywood figures of the last 30+ years that isn’t a household name. “The Irishman” is the seventh Scorsese flick she’s been nominated for. She won for three of those, and very much deserves a fourth Oscar for what may be her greatest achievement—piecing together the timelines, memories and shifting moral tones of Scorsese’s three-and-a-half hour epic into a breezy experience that feels 40 minutes shorter than it is, while also laying bare the profound consequences that time has wrought on the film’s central figures.
Will win: “Ford v Ferrari"
I'm tempted to rely on the Academy to view Schoonmaker's wizardy as the sme caliber of epic behind-the-scenes accomplishment that "1917" is. But I don't have that faith. So I'll predict voters lean toward Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland's fast-and-furious cutting of "Ford v Ferrari."
Should’ve been nominated: “Uncut Gems”
It feels like there’s never less than a million things unfolding at the fore of the Safdie Bros’ infinite-stakes thriller, and never less than another million in the background. That it remains as coherent as it does isn’t just an all-in Adam Sandler’s doing; it’s the editing of Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie.
Best Sound Editing
Should win: “1917”
More so than anything else in “1917” – yes, even more than it’s stitched-together single-take illusion – it was the soundscape of Sam Mendes’s battle-ravaged European battlefields that most sucked me in to the journeys of lance corporals Blake and Schofield. How the film’s sound editing team of Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate managed to make the flares flying over the bombed-out ruins of a French town sound so peaceful despite the visual horrors on display throughout the movie, I have nary a clue. But they’ve remained in my ear.
Will win: “Ford v Ferrari”
The rocket-powered engines, metallic scrunching and rubber-meets-scorched-road viscerality of James Mangold’s racing movie made me think twice if the Le Mans wasn’t in fact unfolding right outside the movie theater. I suspect most Academy voters had the same reaction, and remembered it come ballot time.
Should’ve been nominated: “Midsommar”
For the twinkled clanging of dozens of sets of silverware being used at once, forebodingly ritualistic gasps of a Swedish cult and the etched-in-my-memory screams of Florence Pugh—all that contribute immeasurably to Ari Aster’s hypnotizing cliff dive.
Best Sound Mixing
Should win: “Ad Astra”
The buggy-chase shootout (a thing, theoretically, involving much noise) on the lunar surface (a place where, anecdotally, noise is practically sucked out of existence) in James Grays’s technically-excellent “Ad Astra” sounded like the quiet desperation of Brad Pitt’s existential astronaut given sonic range. It’s one of the few moments in a theater in recent memory where I paused and thought to myself, “Things can sound like that?”
Will win: “Ford v Ferrari”
The individual clangs, vrooms and skreeees of “Ford v Ferrari” are as important individual as they are in concert with each other, especially in that epic Le Mans sequence. As its recent past in honoring sonically-busy movies like “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Dunkirk” show, the Academy believes so too.
Should’ve been nominated: “Midsommar”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Should win: “Bombshell”
I’m not saying I’m not totally sure that wasn’t actually Megyn Kelly playing herself in Jay Roach’s Fox News/#MeToo drama. All I’m saying is that I haven’t seen a photo of Megyn Kelly and Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly in the same room together.
Will win: “Bombshell”
The past two awardees in this category – “Vice” and “Darkest Hour” – completely and convincingly took their star actors and transformed them into well-known historical figures, just as “Bombshell” does with Charlize Theron’s Megyn Kelly. This is a slam-dunk choice for the Academy, even as the category expands to five nominees from three for the first time.
Should’ve been nominated: “The Lighthouse”
The increasingly-deranged performances of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are at the center of Robert Eggers’s claustrophobic odyssey. But – even in black and white – the grime, salt and sweat coating their bodies sell the plunge into insanity to an even more visceral degree. If we can’t get Dafoe an Oscar, that magnificent beard alone deserves one.
Best Live Action Short Film
Should win: “Nefta Football Club”
The competition in this category varies widely in terms of quality this year, but leagues ahead of its fellow nominees is the Tunisian-set “Nefta Football Club.” There are tonal echoes of Jason Reitman in Yves Piat’s endearing, hilarious story about two brothers who find an unexpected surprise in the saddles of a lost donkey wandering around the desert, and the payoff is an unexpected as it is brilliant.
Will win: “Brotherhood”
The light-footed story and squeaky-clean aesthetics of “The Neighbors’ Window” may have something to say about it, but I think voters will lean toward Meryam Joobeur’s “Brotherhood,” with its emotional complexity, hard-hitting ending and relevant crisis-tinged narrative.
Best Animated Short Film
Should win: “Memorable”
The surrealism is purposeful in the French animated short “Memorable,” where the characters evoke paper mâché constructions come alive and the subject of dementia is handled delicately and utterly uniquely. “Memorable” may be economical in its storytelling, but that doesn’t keep it from having high ambitions—and meeting them.
Will win: “Hair Love”
The momentum for Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver’s inventive delight of a short film – about parenthood, self-confidence and literally wrestling a massive head of hair – has been gaining steam for months ahead of an inevitable Oscar nomination. Its victory feels just as cemented—it’s the kind of representational benchmark voters will flock to, and it’ll be given bonus points for being largely dialogue-less.
Make sure to read our reviews of the nominees for Best Picture:
- '1917' Review: Sam Mendes's technically triumphant war film can get in its own way
- 'Jojo Rabbit' Review: Taika Waititi's anti-hate crusade is a surprisingly introspective one
- Review: 'Joker' reimagining is an artificial, bloody circus without a punchline
- 'Parasite' Review: Bong Joon-ho's critique of socioeconomic systems is exacting, exciting and endlessly entertaining
- 'Ford v Ferrari' Review: Racecar drama isn't quite as gripping in its story as it is thrilling on the track
- 'Marriage Story' Review: A complex portrait of love at the end, and one of the year's best movies
- 'The Irishman' Review: Scorsese's crime epic is a sobering account of gangsters and impermanence
- 'Little Women' Review: An immense triumph
- 'Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood' Review: Tarantino contemplates and embraces his version of an era