The Student
Oscars 2020 Predictions
by Owen Stidman, 11/02/20

The film industry’s biggest night is fast approaching. On February 9, film fans across the world will sit down and watch intently — or at least follow along on their phones — as 2019’s best films (and Joker) are recognized by cinema’s most prestigious award-giving body. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman and 1917 are tied with 10 nominations each. But the film with the most Oscar nominations is… (sigh) Joker, with 11. Then again, this is coming from the Academy, which awarded Best Picture to Green Book over BlacKkKlansman last year. In other words, I’m ready to yell at the TV as the Academy fails to recognize my favorite films of last year.

Without further ado, here are the films and people I expect to win some of this year’sAcademy Awards. Disclaimer: I wasn’t able to make predictions for every category due to a word count limit, so I picked the nine categories in which most people are probably interested.


Best International Feature Film
Nominations: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Misérables, Pain and Glory, Parasite
Prediction: Parasite
This is the only prediction in which I have nearly 100 percent confidence. Parasite has been the clear frontrunner in this category for some time now, and for good reason — it’s one of the best films of the last decade. It’s also the only non-American film nominated for Best Picture. There’s no reason why any other film should win this category.
If it was up to me: Parasite
Parasite is a masterpiece. While it probably won’t win Best Picture, it has every right to
win this one.

Best Supporting Actor
Nominations: 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)
Prediction: Brad Pitt

Pitt won this category at both the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. If this trend continues, he’ll take home the Oscar as well. Plus, he has yet to win an Oscar in an acting category, so it makes sense for the Academy to give him one this year.
If it was up to me: Joe Pesci
In The Irishman, Pesci goes toe-to-toe with — and occasionally even surpasses — Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, two of the greatest actors of all time. No other Best Supporting Actor nominee accomplished such a feat last year. Pesci’s performance is one of the best of 2019 supporting or otherwise.

Best Supporting Actress:
Nominations: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)
Prediction: Laura Dern
Dern has dominated this category in the less-prestigious awards shows, so there’s ample reason to expect her to win the big one. And she deserves it — she turns in a great performance along Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story.
If it was up to me: Laura Dern
It fascinates and upsets me that Dern hasn’t yet won an Oscar — she deserves better. Here’s hoping the Academy comes through for her this year.

Best Actor:
Nominations: 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)
Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix
Phoenix is one of today’s best working actors, and he won the SAG Award and Golden Globe for this category. Plus, his performance in Joker is both the best part of the film and one of the best of his career. Giving him the Oscar would be both a logical and respectable choice by the Academy.
If it was up to me: Adam Driver

While Phoenix certainly deserves recognition for his work in Joker, Driver’s performance in Marriage Story is the more powerful of the two. Driver’s Charlie Barber is a more human character than Phoenix’s comic book killer clown. Although Phoenix may have done more acting than Driver to transform into the Joker, Driver’s character in Marriage Story required a more nuanced performance. Plus, Phoenix didn’t sing a Sondheim song.

Best Actress:
Nominations: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renée Zellweger (Judy)
Prediction: Renée Zellweger
Zellweger won both the Golden Globe and SAG Award for this category, so it’s safe to bet that she’ll win the Oscar too. When it comes to the acting categories, the Globes and SAG Awards are historically good Oscar predictors.
If it was up to me: Scarlett Johansson
I was conflicted about picking ScarJo due to her problematic casting comments from mid-2019 (if you know, you know). That being said, she turns in an incredible performance opposite Adam Driver in Marriage Story. It’s the best performance of her career and among the best of 2019.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Nominations: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes
Prediction: Joker
I’m primarily making this prediction based on the fact that Joker has more nominations than any other film this year. In addition to this, the screenplay for Joker includes just enough pseudo-intellectualism and half-baked social commentary — including a monologue that explicitly spells out the film’s ostensibly deep message — for the Academy to deem it a brilliantly written film. Joker is a Taxi Driver remake in clown makeup, and it’s going to win more Oscars than the original. That makes me sad.
If it was up to me: The Irishman
While I’m on the subject of Scorsese films, I’m going to give The Irishman some love. This film is operatic in tone and presents the audience with ruminations on family and mortality. Although the based-on-a-true-story gangster flick is familiar territory for Scorsese, The Irishman feels different, and Steven Zaillian’s screenplay allows the film’s deeper undertones to shine through at all the right moments.

Best Original Screenplay:
Nominations: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite
Prediction: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ticks all the right boxes for an Oscar win: it expresses an undying love of film, features hilarious dialogue and was written by a film industry legend. Plus, it won this category at the Golden Globes. It’s not my first choice for this award, but it would be a respectable enough decision on the Academy’s part.
If it was up to me: Marriage Story
At times, Marriage Story feels like it was written by a playwright, and I mean this in thebest way possible. Witty, emotional and deeply human, there’s not a dull moment in this screenplay. In my opinion, Noah Baumbach’s writing outclassed Tarantino’s in 2019. Too bad I’m not a member of the Academy.

Best Director:
Nominations: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Todd Phillips (Joker), Sam Mendes (1917), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
Prediction: Todd Phillips
Joker leads the Oscar field with 11 nominations. It’s probably going to win Best Picture and cause me to lose all faith in the Academy for the second year in a row. I’m picking Phillips for Best Director simply because the Academy seems to like Joker more than any other film that came out last year. Historically, the director of the Best Picture winner tends to win Best Director, and since I’m picking Joker to win Best Picture, it makes sense for Phillips to win Best Director.
If it was up to me: Martin Scorsese
Scorsese is a living legend and one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He has directed some of the best films in cinema history, and while The Irishman isn’t his magnum opus, it deserves a spot in the top tier of his extensive filmography. The Irishman is a beautifully directed film by a master at the top of his game. Yet, somehow, Scorsese only has one Best Director Oscar to his name. The man deserves more.

Best Picture:
Nominations: Ford v. Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite
Prediction: Joker
The Academy will break my heart for the second year in a row, and I am ready to be hurt again. I have… thoughts… on Joker. In my opinion, it’s the weakest of the Best Picture nominees that I’ve seen. It’s a fine movie, but it’s not on the same level as films like Parasite, The Irishman and Marriage Story. Yet Joker has somehow dominated awards season and netted the most Oscar nominations of any film. Despite being little more than a less-nuanced Taxi Driver set in the Batman universe, Joker has convinced the masses that it’s one of the year’s most thought-provoking films. A Best Picture win for Joker would be disappointing, but not surprising.
If it was up to me: Marriage Story
Marriage Story is a masterclass in screenwriting, acting and making me cry. It’s also, contrary to what the Academy may believe, beautifully directed. These are all the main ingredients for an excellent film. Baumbach’s best film does everything right and deserves more love than it will likely receive at the Oscars.


So there you have it. If my predictions are right — and frankly, I hope most of them aren’t — we’re going to see Joker get a lot of love on February 9. We really do live in a society. But even if some of my favorite films of last year are shut out, I know I’ll be entertained. The Oscars are a night for reflecting on last year’s best films, betting on the winners with your friends and, of course, getting irrationally angry at a group of Hollywood elites for their inexplicable love of a murderous clown. On a final note: justice for Uncut Gems.

Image: Kat Cassidy